An “active transportation” initiative that aims to fund pathways, sidewalks and similar projects around the state remained alive this week with a $10 million amendment to the general fund budget.

The budget amendment in the House came after a $40 million stand-alone bill failed introduction on a 30-30 vote where a two-thirds majority was required. The $10 million active transportation general fund budget amendment subsequently passed 30-29, with one excused, during second reading of the House budget bill.

Why it matters

Wyoming Pathways launched the initiative after at least three years in a row during which vehicle-caused pedestrian deaths ran into the double digits. Cars and trucks killed a dozen people in 2021, including a teenager walking to school in Cheyenne, one of seven persons killed by vehicles in that city last year.

“It’s a part of planning for the future — for communities attracting new businesses.”

Tim Young, Wyoming Pathways

The Wyoming Department of Transportation, which receives almost $340 million from the federal government annually, earmarks less than 1% to statewide pedestrian and cycle safety, the nonprofit pathway group says. That’s less than half of what Congress set as a standard years ago when distributing federal highway funds.

History

The initiative came after communities across the state identified more than $100 million in projects through a survey launched by Wyoming Pathways. Twenty cities, 15 towns, five counties, 80 residents and eight nonprofits responded to the survey.

In Cody, the school district wants a crosswalk where a child got hit by a vehicle near a middle school. Dayton and Ranchester want a 6-mile path connecting the two towns. Mills wants a main street common area and Lander has identified 10 school-route safety proposals.

Trimmed from the original $40 million initiative, which eyed American Rescue Plan Act funds, the budget amendment would instead add $9 million to the Wyoming Department of Transportation for a grant program. The money is earmarked for shared pathways, greenways, safe pedestrian and bicycle routes to schools, bicycle networks on roads, sidewalks, crosswalks and similar projects. Another $1 million would go to the Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources for grants for non-motorized trails.

Who said what

“A lot of communities already have projects on the books,” initiative backer Rep. Jim Roscoe (I-Wilson) told the House. Rep. Danny Eyre (R-Lyman), co-sponsored the budget amendment.

“We’re thrilled with the inclusion of this,” said Tim Young with Wyoming Pathways. “I think it speaks to the need in Wyoming for these kinds of developments. It’s a part of planning for the future — for communities attracting new businesses.”

WYDOT’s top priority is matching expenditures with revenue, said agency Director Luke Reiner. Emergency repairs and “preserving what we have” come next. “At the very bottom is expansion of the system.”

But citizens want expansion, including one survey respondent from the Saratoga/Encampment area who asked for paths “where children could walk, ride bikes and recreate.” In LaGrange, population about 300, residents want paved sidewalks so “all people, even those confined to a wheel chair, can get around.”

The House budget bill is scheduled to be heard for third reading Friday.

Angus M. Thuermer Jr.

Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. He is a veteran Wyoming reporter and editor with more than 35 years experience in Wyoming. Contact him at angus@wyofile.com or (307)...

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