Central Transportation Commissioner Q&A

 Bike Walk Mississippi  have submitted a list of questions to all Transportation Commissioner candidates throughout the state and will publish their answers as soon as we receive them.  Both candidates from the Central District have responded with their answers to how they will incorporate the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians into the overall Transportation system in Mississippi.  Please find their answers below:

Responses from Dick Hall (R):  

Q: Over the past year, we have seen several bicycle fatalities as well as significant accidents and aggression toward cyclists on Mississippi’s roads. This in addition to vehicular deaths, pedestrian safety and the issue of distracted driving, do you support committed and increased funding to help lessen these accidents?

A: I do. I was a big supporter of Senate Bill No. 3014 or John Paul Frerer Safety Act making it mandatory for motorists to observe 3 feet when passing by cyclists. It’s un-nerving having a car pass you at high speed while you’re on your bicycle. They need to respect cyclists, and I’m committed to doing whatever is in my power to protect cyclists on the road. It’s just as much the cyclists’ road as it is the car or truck.

Q: When we talk about bicycle and pedestrian advocacy in Mississippi, we are not simply talking about alternate paths and bike lanes, but an overall concerted effort to integrate these types of travel into the bigger Transportation system in Mississippi. Do you believe that biking and pedestrian facilities, design and other issues should be part of the bigger picture of Mississippi’s Transportation system?

A: Without question. We are currently engaging in a statewide effort to integrate more options for cyclists, walkers, and runners to safely travel from point A to point B. Our ultimate goal is to have a network of paths that connect the various communities throughout Mississippi. In metro Jackson, we’re working on a continuous multiuse path that will connect to the existing paths in Ridgeland, Flowood, and Brandon. Metro Jackson has so much opportunity for multiuse paths, and I am helping lead the charge to get the City of Jackson the money they need to make this a reality. I’m excited to report that just this past Tuesday we awarded the city of Jackson $1,100,000 for a multiuse trail which will connect the Farmer’s Market to the Ag. Museum, and hopefully in the future connect with some of the paths we have helped fund for Flowood and Ridgeland. If the current Commission is elected for another term, we have already made it our priority to integrate multimodal transportation systems into our future plans for Mississippi. I look forward to the opportunity to make that happen for Mississippi.

Q: Many people walk or bike in Mississippi whether by choice and by need.  How will you increase access of our roads for people who don’t or can’t drive and do you support better funding for public transportation as well as better infrastructure to provide access for ALL users of the road?

A: I do believe funding public transportation is necessary. Not everyone can afford their own vehicle, so it’s important that public transportation options are available. That’s why we have a full division  called Public Transit devoted to aiding local municipalities in providing public transportation options to help their citizens get from point a to point b.

Q: TE Funding:  As you know, the Federal Transportation Bill received an extension until March 2012 at which point there is a chance that Transportation Enhancements funds (the primary funding source of bike paths, walking trails, sidewalks) will fall under the ultimate discretion of the each state’s Department of Transportation.   Will you continue to support using these funds to support bike & pedestrian projects through these programs in Mississippi?

A.    Absolutely. I’m proud to report that we just awarded a total of $6.9 Million dollars in the Central Transportation District alone for Transportation Enhancement projects. Of that $6.9 Million awarded to local municipalities, $4.1 Million  (60%) was for multiuse trails. There is no question that the Current Mississippi Transportation Commission is taking the wants and needs of cyclists, runners, and walkers very seriously; and I encourage every local municipality to apply for these Transportation Enhancement funds. We intend to expand upon this progress in the future.

Q: How would your transportation plans for Mississippi be inclusive of ALL the people who use roads?  The “Complete Streets” policy implementation has been a very effective concept used nationwide to take into account the needs of ALL users of the road when completing new or re-construction projects. Would you support a statewide complete streets policy in Mississippi?

A: I would support such a policy. In fact, this past year with the help of our friends at Bike Walk MS and other advocacy groups, we instituted a policy to make it mandatory for MDOT to study the feasibility of incorporating a multiuse path or bicycle lane in all new construction plans from here on out. It’s time for Mississippi to be at the top of list when it comes to being bicycle and pedestrian friendly.

Q: Job creation: According to the most recent report, bike projects create twice as many jobs per dollar as resurfacing projects.  These projects use fewer materials therefore more of the cost goes to labor.  Particularly in light of Mississippi’s need for increased health and economic development, do you support infrastructure that would support cyclist and motorist safety such as widening shoulders and increasing bike lanes, sharrows, signs and paths?

A: Mississippi has consistently been one of America’s fattest states. I’m tired of hearing that. While I have been in office as your Central Transportation Commissioner, I have made it a personal mission to increase the available options for runners and cyclists. Admittedly, we can’t know everything about everything, so we partner with advocacy groups like Bike Walk MS who have expertise in issues and help convey the needs of cyclists and pedestrians to us. With the help of advocacy groups, we are constantly adding more sharrows, signs, and paths are being added to Mississippi’s transportation infrastructure.

Q: In Wisconsin, bicycling has an economic impact of $1.5 million, Minnesota has seen a $1 billion bicycling boost to their economy, Central Florida’s bike paths pump 42 million into the local economy and North Carolina found a 9-1 return on investment in bicycle improvements.  In light of the significant return on investment, will you support allocating funds to invest in these opportunities?

A.    Yes, I’m a big believer in bicycling as a viable alternative to conventional means of transportation. And there are more benefits to bicycling than the obvious monetary returns. I would like to see a healthier future for Mississippi, and this is a great way to help that cause.

Q: Safe Routes to Schools: MDOT held its first Safe Routes to Schools Conference this year.  What will you do as commissioner to increase safe and healthy transportation options and opportunities daily exercise for school-kids in Mississippi?

A.    This is something near and dear to me. I used to ride my bike to school every day when I was a kid, and I really enjoyed it. I fully support projects that expand sidewalks, dedicated bike paths, sharrows, and any other safe means for a child to get to school either by foot or on their bike. We have some really capable and competent people in our staff at MDOT who help make programs like Safe Routes to Schools successful. I was fortunate enough to speak at the SRTS conference this year, and it was touching to see how many interested Mississippians there were in attendance. If this conference was such a success on the first go-round, I know it will only get bigger and stronger in the future, and as your Commissioner I am dedicated to providing all the necessary resources to make this and other programs and efforts that make it safer to walk, run, or ride your bike in Mississippi.

Responses from Marshand Crisler (D):  

Q: Over the past year, we have seen several bicycle fatalities as well as significant accidents and aggression toward cyclists on Mississippi’s roads. This in addition to vehicular deaths, pedestrian safety and the issue of distracted driving, do you support committed and increased funding to help lessen these accidents?

A: Yes.

Q: When we talk about bicycle and pedestrian advocacy in Mississippi, we are not simply talking about alternate paths and bike lanes, but an overall concerted effort to integrate these types of travel into the bigger Transportation system in Mississippi. Do you believe that biking and pedestrian facilities, design and other issues should be part of the bigger picture of Mississippi’s Transportation system?

A: Yes. People change, and needs change. We are transitioning into an era of exercise including walking and biking. We are also going green.  As we change as a society, so must our infrastructure change to handle the demands of the people. I am supportive of any alternate means of transportation that are (1) healthy, (2) environmentally friendly, and (3) cost effective. Biking and walking are more than just fun. They are a practical, economical means of transportation that should be supported and encouraged throughout the state, not just in certain areas.

Q: Many people walk or bike in Mississippi whether by choice and by need.  How will you increase access of our roads for people who don’t or can’t drive and do you support better funding for public transportation as well as better infrastructure to provide access for ALL users of the road?

A: The first part of the question is not something I would have the expertise or knowledge to answer. As a Commissioner, that is indeed the kind of questions I would ask to be studied so that the commissioners can review the information and follow with plans to proceed. Part 2: Yes I support public transportation and we need to find better means of funding, especially in areas that depend on a functional public transportation on a daily basis.

Q: TE Funding:  As you know, the Federal Transportation Bill received an extension until March 2012 at which point there is a chance that Transportation Enhancements funds (the primary funding source of bike paths, walking trails, sidewalks) will fall under the ultimate discretion of the each state’s Department of Transportation.   Will you continue to support using these funds to support bike & pedestrian projects through these programs in Mississippi?

A: The benefits from TE funding for bike and walking paths are evident in areas where funding has been obtained, such as Rankin and Madison Counties. The safety for the users is benefit enough, but the overall benefit to the communities for having such amenities makes this a win/win program for citizens and municipalities. As the momentum toward healthy lifestyle continues to increase, we need to continue using TE funds to enhance communities and lives throughout the state. What a great way to “vacation” in Mississippi by riding from one city to the next, or to take the family for a weekend to explore a new city or town by meandering through on foot or cycle.

Q: How would your transportation plans for Mississippi be inclusive of ALL the people who use roads?  The “Complete Streets” policy implementation has been a very effective concept used nationwide to take into account the needs of ALL users of the road when completing new or re-construction projects. Would you support a statewide complete streets policy in Mississippi?

A: “Complete streets” are successful. I like the concept, the reasoning, and believe they are indeed the way of the future. For new road projects, engineers should consider “complete streets” as a viable option on new road projects and on projects to widen and/or re-work existing roads and bridges. Serious consideration should be given on every job.

Q: Job creation: According to the most recent report, bike projects create twice as many jobs per dollar as resurfacing projects.  These projects use fewer materials therefore more of the cost goes to labor.  Particularly in light of Mississippi’s need for increased health and economic development, do you support infrastructure that would support cyclist and motorist safety such as widening shoulders and increasing bike lanes, sharrows, signs and paths?

A: Absolutely.

Q: Safe Routes to Schools: MDOT held its first Safe Routes to Schools Conference this year.  What will you do as commissioner to increase safe and healthy transportation options and opportunities daily exercise for school-kids in Mississippi?

A: It will be exciting to take the message of SRTS throughout the 22-county district. Only a few of our cities and towns in Mississippi have become involved, and sadly, none are in the Central District. I will take the message and be an advocate for Safe Routes to Schools. I have children who need this, and know the district is filled with thousands more. This is a program that will greatly benefit the Central district.

We hope you will take into account the bicycle and pedestrian issues as it relates to MDOT’s overall Transportation System.  We will release the Northern & Southern candidate questions as soon as we receive them.

Take a step. Support a revolution. 

 

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