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The $2 Million Bike Path

The ski town of Telluride builds one of the first ISTEA-funded bike/ped trails in Colorado.

From Rocky Mountain Motorist

Map of Colorado Last year, Colorado's Transportation Commission approved a 2.8 mile long bicycle path for the town of Telluride at a cost of $2 million. At first glance, this may seem like gross extravagance. However the facts of the $2 million bike path bear some investigation. The path had to meet government standards; it had to be 10 feet wide with two-foot gravel shoulders. And to put the path where it was needed, a sewer line had to be moved at a cost of $300,000.

All very well, you may say, but does the town of Telluride really need a bike path if it's so expensive? Couldn't the money be spent on something more useful? The answers, to the surprise of many, were "yes" to the first question and "no" to the second. Telluride's mayor came to the meeting to ask the Commission to shelve plans for a four-lane highway into Telluride at a cost of over $6 million. It seems the people of Telluride didn't want a major, four-lane highway; they wanted the bike path.

According to the mayor, 90 percent of the population of Telluride owns bicycles and they use them to commute to work every day (yes, even in the winter). In an attempt to keep the town livable and in the price range for the working populace, the bike path was to be the major route to work for 700 people from a condominium development just outside of town. "We don't want to make the same mistakes thatAspen made," the mayor said, in terms of pricing the cost of living far out of reach of the normal, working person.

This, hopefully, will be the wave of the future in transportation planning. With the passage of the Surface Transport-ation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA), Congress dramatically altered the nature of U.S. transportation planning and funding. The act not only provides funding for highways, highway safety, and public transportation, it restructures the federal-aid highway program, greatly shifting transportation decision-making away from Washington, D.C.

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