Tapping Local Resources for Bicycling and Walking Projects: Capital Improvement Tapping Local Resources for Bicycling and Walking Projects: Capital Improvement

By Joan Pasiuk, Bicycling and Walking Program Director

The Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program, through Bike Walk Twin Cities, made funding for bicycling and walking transportation available to communities in the grant area. The program established a dedicated pool of bike/walk investment funds under local control with flexibility across categories including planning, construction, communications, education, and evaluation. Over the past six years and continuing through 2013, investments of $28 million have created strategic and lasting value for bicycling and walking. There is no such pool of federal funds currently available in the Minneapolis area, or anywhere.

Reduced funds at the federal level in MAP-21, plus growing demand for bicycling and walking options, puts more reliance on state and local governments to provide resources for bicycling and walking transportation.

One important avenue of bike/walk funding for cities and counties is capital improvement planning. This process reviews long-term needs of the municipality or county and ranks proposed projects against the criteria each unit has established. The projects are funded significantly through municipal-issued debt, but also through municipal state aid, assessments, and other sources. Capital investments can be wide ranging, including: parks and recreational facilities, street paving, streetscapes, bridges, housing development, and energy efficiency projects.

First, my three take-aways about capital planning at the city level:

  • Capital planning budgets in Saint Paul and Minneapolis are substantive enough for bicycle and pedestrian proponents to pay attention to
  • Capital planning wedded to a complete streets framework is an important key to comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure development
  • There are many ways for residents to be involved in determining a city's long term investments


Under Minnesota statute, if a municipality operates under a capital improvement planning process the plan must cover a five-year period. In Minneapolis and Saint Paul, the capital budgeting process is pretty much always in progress. So the five-year plan can have, for example, two-year project review cycles and annual updates.

In Saint Paul, in the last completed project cycle of 2013-2014, 149 projects were vetted for a total request of $214 million (city money only; this does not include state and federal grants). A total of 71 projects were funded; of these, 28 projects included bicycle and/or pedestrian features for a total of $50 million. (Thanks to John McCarthy, Senior Budget Analyst in the Saint Paul Office of Financial Services for some background and figures.) The 2013 adopted capital improvement program totals $38.2 million, including non-local sources.

In Minneapolis, the Capital Long-Range Improvement Committee (CLIC), a citizen's advisory committee to the mayor and city council, received and reviewed proposals totaling $661 million for the 2012-2016 cycle and recommended funding $617 million.

For me, these figures indicate that the capital planning processes in Saint Paul and Minneapolis are substantive enough for bicycle and pedestrian proponents to pay attention to. Both John McCarthy and Shaun Murphy, Minneapolis Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, said the focus on complete streets embeds consideration of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure more intrinsically into the capital process. Paving projects, for example, clearly have value to anyone traveling the streets on two wheels; Shaun Murphy and the Minneapolis Bicycle Advisory Committee use this opportunity to review paving projects in conjunction with capital improvement plans and in light of the city's bicycle plan. The bicycle-related projects in the current five-year Minneapolis Capital Improvement Program are listed below.




  1. Bluff Street



  1. Penn Ave. S Reconstruction (50th St. W to Crosstown)
  2. 46th St. W Reconstruction (Dupont Ave. S to Lyndale Ave)



  1. Hiawatha LRT Trail Lighting Project
  2. LaSalle Ave (Grant St. W to 8th St. S)
  3. Hennepin/Lyndale Aves.
  4. Riverside Extension (4th St. S and 15th Ave. S)



  1. 26th Ave. N (Broadway to Lyndale)
  2. 26th Ave. N (Theodore Wirth Pkwy. to Broadway and Lyndale to Mississippi River)
  3. 2016
  4. 40th St. Ped/Bike Bridge
  5. 38th St. E (Hiawatha to Minnehaha)



  1. 18th Ave NE (Monroe St NE to Johnson St NE)
  2. 54th St W (Penn Ave S to Lyndale Ave S)


Ways to Be Involved

There is no reason to watch these processes from the sidelines. In Saint Paul, residents can be involved in district council committee review, serve on a CIB task force or the CIB committee, or testify at the city council public hearing. Letters of support for a project are relevant at any of these steps, as well as, at any point, to the mayor or members of the city council. In Saint Paul, projects are evaluated in the categories of importance, safety, commitment, community benefit, and long term benefit; see the scoring sheet for Community Facilities and Streets and Utilities Capital Projects.

About a quarter of the project proposals the City receives are from outside community groups. The key in Saint Paul as well as Minneapolis is to keep your eye on the ball and be active at each step.

Want to get some exposure to this process? Here are a few upcoming opportunities:







Uh oh, the first two projects

Uh oh, the first two projects on Mpls' list don't bode so well for this method. Hopefully the rest of them actually happen someday.