County Offers Proposals to Encourage Use of Bikes for Transportation, and to Fund Bike Trail Maintenance
March 05, 2003
Capital City Trail fee issue sparks ideas for long-term maintenance funding
Bicyclists who use the Capital City trail to commute may get a reprieve from paying the trail fee this year, while Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and the County Board seek longer term solutions to securing funds to maintain bike trails in the county.
Falk and County Board Supervisor Chuck Erickson today said they are looking to tap state Transportation Aids to help pay for ongoing maintenance of bike paths.
Currently, anyone over age 16 who is on a bike or rollerblades on the urban Capital City Trail must purchase the same state trail pass required on other state recreational trails, even though many people use it as for commuting. The fee for a state trail pass is $3 per day or $10 per year.
The Capital City trail runs along the Nine Springs E-Way between Madison and Fitchburg and into downtown Madison. Opened in summer of 2000, the trail was developed in partnership with the State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Department of Transportation (WisDOT), and the cities of Fitchburg and Madison.
“Many of our citizens use the trail as a transportation corridor to get to their jobs and other destinations,” said Falk. “Bicyclists help reduce traffic congestion and cut down on auto emissions, improving our environment and health. We want to encourage that.”
Erickson said finding ongoing sources of funding to operate and maintain the Capital City trail has been challenging. “I’ve been working on finding a solution that both encourages bike transportation and provides ongoing funds to maintain bike paths in our communities,” said Erickson, a member of the Dane County Transportation Committee and advocate for transportation options.
Falk said that many citizens have raised concerns to her about including the trail fee for the Capital City Trail, although about an equal number, including users, have expressed support for the fee.
Three resolutions will be introduced to the County Board Thursday (March 6) related to the bike path issue. The county executive praised Erickson, along with Supervisors Al Matano, John Hendrick, and Scott McDonell, for their efforts in working with the bicycling community and drafting the resolutions.
-- Direct the Dane County Parks Department and Highway and Transportation Department to set up a pilot program to provide a state trail pass to residents who use the Capital City Trail primarily for transportation. This, in effect, exempts those who use the trail for commuting from having to pay the trail fee. The program would be funded with $5,000 from the Bicycle Program of the county’s Highway and Transportation Department, which would reimburse the Parks Department for the loss of revenue from the free passes. Bicyclists would need to sign an affidavit that they use the trail primarily for transportation, rather than recreational, purposes. The affidavit would be available on the county’s website or at a county office.
-- Urge the Legislature to change state law so that local bike path maintenance costs would be reimbursable to the same extent as are maintenance costs for highways under the state’s General Transportation Aids formula. Local governments now bear the full cost of maintaining off-road bike paths, which are used for both transportation and recreational use.
-- Request Governor Jim Doyle to establish a statewide task force to address the issue of ongoing funding for construction, operation and maintenance of all state, county, and municipal bike trail systems. Identifying a stable and ongoing source of funding for maintenance and ongoing operations is critical to trail users.
“The issue of state trail maintenance is not limited to the Capital City Trail or to Dane County,” said Falk. “We need to find another approach that provides sufficient revenue, that treats bicyclists and other users fairly, and that is efficient to administer. Changes in state law will be necessary to accomplish this.”
Erickson said, “Together, these proposals seek to encourage more use of bikes for transportation.”
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Sharyn Wisniewski (608) 267-8823
Supervisor Chuck Erickson (608) 212-8753