Many of us call Central Pennsylvania home because it’s a beautiful place without the problems of bigger, crowded cities. Yet like many other similar communities, Altoona and its suburbs are on the cusp of the gridlock and congestion that curses too much of America.
We continue to spend inordinate amounts of money on highways only to see the highways become more congested. In the last few years, both the public and our policy makers have finally come to realize that there has to be a better way. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the federal government have seen the light and tried to give alternative transportation a share of the pot.
Here’s where this gets exciting for our Blair County community. We find ourselves as one of about 45 communities across the entire country in line for funding to enhance “active transportation. Blair County is the only Pennsylvania community still on this select list.
The Rails to Trails Conservancy is leading the 2010 Campaign for Active Transportation, calling for funding that would provide for specific infrastructure improvements to improve pedestrian, handicap and bicycle access.
This will include dedicated bike and pedestrian lanes, sidewalk construction or rehabilitation, urban trail signage, cross-walk improvements and installation, lighting, green space buffering, urban to off-road trail transition improvements and bike rack installations and related transit interface improvements. Educational and promotional programming is also proposed by the strategy.
A $50 million federal investment matched by $10 million in state and local funds is being proposed to bring needed improvements to reduce dependence on motorized vehicles, cut emissions and energy consumption, ease congestion, lower cardiovascular disease, diabetes and childhood obesity and result in a more livable and desirable community. The campaign builds off of the Non-motorized Transportation Pilot Program of the federal transportation funding bill.
A diverse local committee believes that the 2010 Campaign for Active Transportation in Blair County will ultimately lead to an enhanced quality of life that will attract businesses and individuals looking for a vibrant community, an active lifestyle and a pleasant environment.
On Monday afternoon, October 20th the committee is hosting an official kickoff of our local campaign. Bicyclists and pedestrians will be traveling from Penn State Altoona and the Hollidaysburg YMCA to the kickoff event at the Heritage Plaza in downtown Altoona.
The local event is being done in conjunction with the release to of the national Rails to Trails Conservancy’s report to Congress, "Active Transportation for America" intended to build support for the funding.
What better way to exhibit our community support for such an initiative than to see a big crowd at Heritage Plaza? We are in a position to avoid the transportation mistakes made in other places by building an active transportation infrastructure in Blair County. We need to show decision makers that we’re excited by the prospect.