Tulsa advocates say, “Fix OUR Streets”
Mar 25, 2013
At 197 square miles, the city of Tulsa is larger than San Francisco, Boston, Washington DC and Miami combined. There are enough lane miles of streets in the city to stretch from New York to Los Angles and back to Tulsa…with 500 miles to spare. An improvement to Tulsa’s streets would significantly transform the region.
The City of Tulsa has been rebuilding its streets under a capital improvements program called “Fix Our Streets” since 2008, but rebuilding them the way they were over forty years ago before they deteriorated so badly, without adding bike lanes or any other accommodations.
Fix Our Streets is coming up for a 5-year renewal this year, and local advocates are working hard to make sure that the proposed $800 million in road improvements include high-quality facilities for bicyclists and pedestrians.
“We need to put the pressure on and show that many every-day people want this for our city,” says Stephen Lassiter, a member of the Tulsa Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC). “We can't afford to have five more years of streets projects that do not include bicycle or pedestrian infrastructure."
The Advocacy Advance team was recently in Tulsa to facilitate a Navigating MAP-21 Workshop for over 80 agency staff, advocates and elected officials to learn how to fund bicycle and pedestrian projects in the Tulsa region with federal dollars in the new bill. Most importantly, workshop participants expressed that prioritizing these investments are essential for the economic and social development of Tulsa – a sentiment shared by elected officials.
“I’m an advocate for the types of things you’re doing to hear about today because I believe wholeheartedly that nothing is more important to the future of a city than how it develops its personality,” said keynote speaker, Tulsa City Councilor Blake Ewing. “If it’s a place that people can walk around, that they can interact with buildings on the street, if you can ride your bike to work, those things are unique, that’s the unique experience of the core and the heart of a community."
"And so, as we decide what kind of city we want to be, what kind of policies we want to make, what kind of investments we want to make in our infrastructure, my suggestion today is going to be that this is the most critical decision your city can make....And active decisions say, ‘How we do this matters for life.’ Because this next generation of first-time homebuyers, this next generation of our spenders…They want the excitement. They want the personality. And they’re choosing where they live based upon those offerings.”
Advocacy Advance preceded the workshop with a modified Winning Campaigns Training for advocates to flesh out their Fix Our Streets Campaign. At a recent presentation from agency staff, $7.5 million was listed under citywide matching funds for biking and walking. In a typical 20% match scenario (20% city funds, 80% federal), these funds could be leveraged to get an additional $30 million from the feds for a total of $37.5 million over the 5 years of the program.
At first glance, this sounds great. But in further conversations, advocates have been told that the citywide matching funds are for any project, not just bike/ped, and they are crafting a campaign to point out this discrepancy.
What can the city get for this price tag? For $30 million, Tulsa can widen one mile of Yale Street.
Build 100 miles of sidewalk, stripe 600 miles of bike lanes, fund 300 miles of protected bike lanes, 20 miles of high-end NYC-style cycle track, 120 miles of bicycle boulevard/neighborhood greenway, or 30 miles of multi-use trails.
With public meetings starting the week after the workshop, advocates crafted their campaign pitch, set goals, identified the key decision makers, and set next steps for their campaign. Advocates will pack the house at upcoming public meetings and call out the $7.5 million that have been listed as matching funds under the bike/ped heading. They will also ensure that the city implements the Complete Streets Resolution passed by the City Council last year and creates a bicycle master plan to identify prioritized projects before the Fix Our Streets funding package is up for a vote.
“We have a city council that mostly seems open minded to doing bike/ped projects...(but) without a master plan, we may be missing an opportunity to get bike/ped accommodations at the most cost-effective time, when many of our streets are being refurbished,” says Stephen Lassiter of Bike-Walk Tulsa. “Tulsa needs this badly. We are on the cusp of really being able to do some great things.”
Photos from Tulsa Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee; Transportationnation.org; Funding slide from City of Tulsa Capital Improvement Program Task Force Meeting 1/31/13