Lawrence city commissioners approved a measure Tuesday that could fuel city biking and hiking trail funding as residents fill up their gasoline tanks.
Commissioners adopted a special ordinance on first reading that would allow the city to use 10 percent of its state gasoline tax funds to pay for footpaths and bicycle trails.
However, they differed on how to use the gasoline tax dollars. Commissioner Bob Schumm saw biking and hiking paths curbing traffic on city streets.
"I would hope that at some point we would use some of this motorized money to give people the option to use bikeways or hiking paths instead of using a car," Schumm said.
Commissioner Bob Walters disagreed, saying gasoline tax dollars should be used primarily as match money for "hike and bike" project grants.
In the end, commissioners said they would approve each use of gasoline tax funds for projects other than those dealing with construction and maintenance of streets and highways, as the money now is used.
"I HAVE A hard time believing that in the long run this will reduce the amount of traffic on our streets, but I'm not limiting it to a match," Mayor Bob Schulte said. "I do want us to be cautious with it."
The state currently charges an 18-cent tax on every gallon of gasoline bought in the state, City Manager Mike Wildgen said. "Roughly eight cents of that goes back to the communities," he said.
The city received $1,524,700 in gasoline tax funds in 1991. State law currently limits the use of a city's share of gasoline tax dollars to construction and maintenance of streets and highways.
However, cities in Johnson County have the green light to use 10 percent of the tax money for footpaths and bicycle trails.
"I'm just saying that we should be able to do that too," Wildgen said. Howver, the city would not be obligated to use the funds for hiking and biking trails.
WILDGEN proposed that the funds be used as a match to a federal grant sought by the city and Douglas County for a "hike and bike" path along the proposed 18.5-mile South Lawrence Trafficway.
"You're going to turn to me and say, `Where's that match coming from?' and this is one way to do it," Wildgen said.
The city and county applied for $459,000 in federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act funds this summer for the first phase of the 10-foot-wide trail.
The 4.9-mile first phase would stretch from County Road 438 to Clinton Parkway along the east side of the trafficway. The city and county would pay an additional $115,650 to pay for 20 percent of the total phase cost.
Commissioners adopted on first reading a charter ordinance, which exempts it from the state law and allows it to use 10 percent of the gasoline tax funds for bike and foot trails.
AFTER ANOTHER reading and two consecutive weeks of publication in the Journal-World, residents will have 60 days to protest the ordinance.
If at least 10 percent of the number of voters in the most recent city election file a petition in the 60-day period, the ordinance would be put up for a vote in the next city election.
With 7,071 voters in the last election, at least 708 voters must sign the petition. If no petition is filed, the law becomes effective after the 60-day protest period.