Grant funds to pay for bicycle lanes in Merced

11/28/2013 5:09 PM

11/28/2013 11:24 PM

Residents in the center and on the south side of town can expect to see fresh bike lanes popping up early next year, now that the city of Merced has accepted some extra cash to complete the job.

An $88,286 grant from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program will allow the city to move forward on the striping of bike lanes. That cash tops off grant money the city received through the program, plus matching funds that bring the total to $379,725.

John Sagin, the city’s principal architect, said the city sought extra cash because the lowest bid – $304,364 – was too high to be covered by the original grant. The city got a hand from the Merced County Association of Governments, which funneled in the extra air quality cash. “We’re real excited about this. It’s going to be doing an awful lot of good for our new bike projects,” Sagin said, adding that it matches up with the city bike plan.

The Merced City Council awarded the striping project on Nov. 18 to Rolfe Construction of Atwater, which submitted the only bid deemed acceptable.

The work to be done in town generally consists of striping new bike lanes, restriping existing bike lanes and installing shared roadway markings, as well as correcting existing traffic lanes and pavement markings to accommodate bike lanes.

There are also plans to add traffic, bike route and bike lane signs, remove a concrete median island and complete minor pavement repairs.

The work will be done between Childs Avenue and 21st Street. M, R, S, V, Eighth and 11th streets all will see upgrades.

The lanes will be drawn with thermoplastic paint for thicker and more durable lines, Sagin said. The lines are set to go down in January, although the weather could push work into February, he said.

The city has been working on improving bicycle accessibility for some time. Mayor Stan Thurston said he was happy to move beyond just talking about improvements. “I’m glad to hear that it’s actually going to happen,” he said.

The 2013 Bicycle Transportation Plan, adopted in September, serves as a template for the area and focuses on making bicycle transportation more accessible. It calls for $2.4 million in funds for the next three years, and 106 projects in five years.

Funding for the project will come from many sources, including local (bicycle registration and licensing fees and city public facilities impact fees), regional (the motor vehicle emission-reduction program and Transportation Development Act), state and federal.

According to the last census, an estimated 373 people in Merced ride a bike to work. That’s a little more than 1 percent of the workforce. That number does not include students riding to school.

Changes to bike infrastructure in Merced could increase daily ridership by as much as 699, according to estimates in the bike plan. Increasing lanes and other ways to cycle around town is a way of promoting fitness in Merced, as well as improving air quality.

MCAG spokeswoman Lori Flanders said the group gets about $2 million a year in air-quality funding from the California Department of Transportation.

“We do a request for projects every year, and usually the cities are pretty good about divvying it up based on what their needs are,” Flanders said.

Other bike-related projects in Merced – 50 racks, three shelters and a path along Black Rascal Creek – received $566,998 through the air-quality program this year, according to numbers from the MCAG.

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