Tax dollars at work; improving midlands transportation

COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) -- It has been almost three years now since Richland County voters approved a controversial sales tax known as the Transportation Penny.

Voters gave the green light to that one cent tax for the area's transit needs, and now leaders are looking to generate more than a billion dollars in revenue over a 22 year period.

Those dollars will go towards the region's bus system, roads and greenway projects.

Since the tax was approved, some have wondered when they will see some of those projects taking shape, and now a plan is in the works for part of those upgrades projects.

Thursday night, local leaders hosted a final public meeting for the 'Walk Bike Columbia' initiative, where they unveiled a final plan and road map of what the future for pedestrians, bikers and public transit will look like in the capital city and throughout Richland County.

Brian Curran is the owner of Columbia's Outspokin Bicycles... as well as an avid cyclist. He says "The more safe places people have to ride bicycles, the better I can take care of my family and my employee's families. I think it would be great if you could ride your bicycle from downtown to, say the zoo, and there's really no safe way to do that right now."

John Fellows is the Planning Administrator for the city of Columbia. Fellows helped present the plan to the public at Thursday's meeting.

He says the plan connects the transit system and the biking and walking infrastructure into a seamless system for people of all ages. It is also included in planned road upgrades in the area.

"It's gonna impact people by giving them safer routes, to get in different transportation choices," said Fellows.

"I ride daily. rain, wind, 17 degrees a couple weeks ago.. every day." Adam Tepe rarely takes a car because he'd rather use a bike to get around.

"I actually think that if you are creative enough and look at the maps, the city is pretty accessible. It's just a matter of protecting some of those roads and opening up for probably some other folks that maybe would wanna get out there and learn about some of those routes."

"When you put in better, safer bike facilities, there actually has been shown an economic advantage." Fellows says walkers and bikers will spend more than someone who is in their car because they see and engage with products and goods.

He continued, "and so there can be economic as well as lifestyle/recreational benefits too."

Curran added "I think that anything that helps increase the livability of Columbia is a great thing."

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