Public safety takes many forms and means something different to each of us. Most of us can agree that clean water, a clean environment, and strong police and fire departments are public safety priorities. However, as our residents become more active, seek healthier lifestyles, and consider alternative methods of transportation, we must respond with options that are safe and affordable.
Integrated systems of walkways and bikeways, commonly referred to as “trails,” are becoming the norm for communities with a focus on meeting the needs of their increasingly-active residents. While cars are still necessary, many people want the option of walking, running or biking to their destinations. Others like trails because they want to exercise outside in the open air, rather than on a treadmill or stationary bike. Still others need trails because they require a wheelchair or motorized scooter to get around, and roads are not a safe option.
In 2012, the City was repeatedly asked to build an interconnected system of trails to allow movement throughout Pittsburg. With the help of organizations like Live Well Crawford County, the Active Transportation Advisory Board, Safe Routes to Schools, Watco, Pitsco, Via Christi, CDL Electric, Professional Engineering Consultants, Jakes Fireworks, Westar Energy, the Kansas Department of Transportation, the federal government, and several generous individuals, we are now on our way to creating this asset. Important pieces of the system now exist, and a continued effort is underway to connect and expand the system.
Another critical piece began last week with the onset of the South Rouse improvement project. South Rouse is currently a two lane, unimproved country road with steep ditches. It spans nearly a mile, and prior to 1978, was adequate as it was simply another road leading out of town. Forty years later, there are nearly 200 homes, several medical offices, a wellness center and more developments in that neighborhood. It also serves as an important gateway for Pittsburg. Unfortunately, it is undersized, unimproved and unsafe.
The project began as a safety initiative. Individuals walking or biking on the road were concerned for their safety and that of their loved ones, as they had to share the road with an ever-increasing number of vehicles. They approached the City with the idea of building a trail next to the road. A federal grant was identified and an effort to raise the matching funds began. Due to the generosity of a dozen donors, the matching funds were raised. As we finalized plans for the improvement, it was decided to combine the trail project with the Rouse widening project, to save tax money and reduce the number of construction days.
Starting April 9, and lasting one hundred and seventy working days, a state contractor will widen and improve Rouse to provide a center turn lane, which will ease congestion and increase safety. The nearly mile-long project includes a ten-foot wide pedestrian and biking trail. The addition of this trail is a significant milestone for all the people and organizations who believed that we could do better, we could be safer, and we could improve the quality of life for all of Pittsburg’s residents and visitors.
People will no longer be forced to ride, walk, and run with their families while competing for space with vehicles. People from the south edge of town will be able to connect with the Pittsburg State University trail system, and move throughout the community in their own time, in their own way. Our community is taking giant steps forward, and working together, we will continue to provide benefits to future generations.