Tuesday, Casper City Council is expected to approve an update to a transportation planning blueprint responsible for guiding an estimated $917 million in federal, state and local dollars over the next 30 years.
The long-range transportation plan, dubbed “Connecting Crossroads,” is “a three-decade plan for transportation investments” in the Casper area. The plan is compiled by the Casper Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, a governmental body tasked with overseeing transportation planning for metropolitan areas. The blueprint maps out projects for the whole area, including Mills, Bar Nunn and Evansville.
The creation of the plan is required by the federal government every four years. To complete the report, the Metropolitan Planning Organization hired a transportation consultant, Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates, to research the community and analyze the city’s transportation needs, both currently and for the next 30 years.
Compiling the plan took more than a year, with the work kicking off in September 2018. The plan cost $320,000 to produce and was paid for by federal money allocated to the planning organization.
For all of the plan’s bureaucratic uses, however, the document is also an opportunity to take stock of a community’s direction and values.
As part of the planning process, the consultants surveyed community members at public events, held open house presentations and accepted survey responses online to gauge the current tone of the community.
The consultants used demographic data to supplement those surveys to map out a number of characteristics for Casper, providing a snapshot of the community through the lens of transportation.
For example, Casperites value safety, affordability, “getting where I need to go in less time,” ease of use and improving health above other priorities.
Casper is aging as a community, which means in the future more Casperites may rely on public transportation. Right now most of the city’s labor force travels by car, with 88 percent reportedly driving alone to work every day, but with public transportation use increasing.
The report also looks at pedestrian safety, which survey respondents said could be improved. The top priorities for pedestrian safety improvements are more sidewalks and trails, more lighting and landscapes, and well-marked crossings and intersections.
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Problems for pedestrian safety include “long and exposed” crossing distances, indirect paths, narrow sidewalks and a lack of compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act standards, according to the report.
Bicycle safety was also highlighted as a concern, with “few protected facilities,” “lack of bicycle signals” and “dangerous crossings at intersections” listed among the primary concerns.
Consultants also looked at current road use. Analyzing which roads see the most congestion helps with planning for maintenance, but it also provides a look at how the city is currently traveling.
The roads with the highest congestion include Wyoming Boulevard and CY Avenue, as well as the eastern stretch of Second Street.
The Metropolitan Planning Organization and its governing board used this information to create a list of transportation projects to prioritize over the next 30 years.
Fifty-five projects were identified. Broken down by type, the projects include seven complete streets projects, 20 multimodal projects, four intersection improvements, 20 roadway construction projects and four bridge replacements.
Recommended projects are divided into near-term, mid-term and long-term, with near-term setting the stage for the next seven years of transportation investment in the area.
The near-term projects represent nearly $104 million in potential investments and include transitioning some one-way streets downtown to two-ways and the reconstruction of the Mills Main Street corridor, which that municipality is looking to enhance with grant funding.
A number of projects listed in the report are either underway or currently planned, but just because an item is identified in the plan does not mean it has been funded or approved.
Funding for the recommended projects is expected to come from federal and state sources, 1-cent taxes, and government grant programs.
The full plan, including the list of recommended projects, can be found on the city of Casper website’s Metropolitan Planning Organization page.
Follow local government reporter Morgan Hughes on Twitter @morganhwrites