A worthy project

Investing in the bike bridge doesn’t take away from public safety

We’ve seen a lot of knee-jerk reactions to the City’s Council’s decision to move forward on a plan to build a bicycle/pedestrian bridge over East 20th Street. That effort is aimed at closing the gap in Chico’s Bikeway 99, the route that begins at the Skyway and ends at Eaton Road.

In case you missed it, the council voted unanimously (with one member absent) to direct staff to accept the project’s feasibility study and go after grant funding—about $13 million—to construct what’s estimated to be a $14.7 million project (see “Up and over,” Newslines, Jan. 4).

Among some of the responses we’ve seen on social media is one that goes something like this: “So, the city can’t afford police and firefighters, but it can spend millions on a bike bridge?”

But here’s the thing: City employees, including fire and law enforcement personnel, are paid from the general fund, the city’s operating budget. That’s not the pool of money the city would use to fund the bridge project. Rather, the monies would come from development impact fees earmarked specifically for bicycle infrastructure as well as additional grant funding through a federal program for projects that mitigate congestion, thereby improving air quality.

What that means is the proposed bridge would not take away the city’s ability to buoy staffing—public safety or otherwise.

Sure, the city could use those impact fees for bicycle improvements elsewhere in the city. But we can’t think of a better way to leverage those funds. This project is, quite simply, a major piece of infrastructure that a rural city of Chico’s size would be fortunate to develop for many reasons beyond those that benefit cyclists.

Indeed, in addition to completing the city’s bicycle and pedestrian highway, this project has the potential to reduce crime and air pollution and it even may attract tourists, thereby bringing in much-needed sales taxes that are the primary source of general fund revenue—money that does pay for employees. It’s a worthy project and money well-spent.