During the month of November we are reminded to give thanks. I have Facebook friends who are making an effort to post something they are thankful for every day of the month. While I like this idea, I think we should also make an effort to thank others -- to let them know we appreciate them.
I recently capitalized on this idea, with the help of my Tennessee Network and Bike/Walk Tennessee, to write a thank you letter to the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT). It is not every day that the DOT gets a thank you letter. The majority of the letters they get are complaints about road work. But I believe that appreciating what they have done for bicyclists and pedestrians across our state is a good way to understand where we are now and where we need to go in the future. Here are a few of the projects that we are thankful for in Tennessee:
- 126 Safe Routes to School projects that have been awarded across the state. Projects that improve sidewalks, crosswalks, signs and include safe walking and biking educational activities--creating a safe environment for children to walk or bike to school.
- Transportation Enhancement grants of more than $270 million in non-traditional transportation projects--creating networks of greenways, trails and walkways that offer Tennesseans additional ways to commute or exercise as well as offering visitors a new way to see our state.
- Improvements like trail markers, directional and historic site designation signage, art projects, landscaping, park benches, bicycle racks and lighting at key intersections.
- Projects that modify parking areas to separate pedestrian and vehicular traffic, replace existing sidewalks and add striping and signage for bicycles lanes.
These projects are good for all residents of Tennessee. They highlight historic areas, provide alternative means of transportation and improve health. Because of our letter we learned that the DOT was appreciative of our work and plans to continue supporting projects for bicyclists and pedestrians. From the DOT's response to our letter:
“Thank you for your recent correspondence expressing appreciation to TDOT for our commitment to projects that support bicycling and walking in Tennessee. Investing in projects such as safe routes to schools, multi-use trails, and streetscape projects helps make our communities safer, healthier, and ultimately, more livable…We will continue to fund important programs for bicycling and walking through Safe Routes to School and Transportation Alternatives, as well as through other available federal and state funding sources.”
“We, in turn, would like to thank you for your organizations’ continued support and advocacy of bicycling and walking in Tennessee...We value our partnerships with organizations such as Bike Walk Tennessee and the Safe Routes to School National Partnership because they help us grow our understanding of the unique transportation challenges that our users face. We genuinely appreciate your letter of thanks and look forward to working with you in the future to promote bicycling and walking as a sustainable means of transportation in Tennessee.”
And, finally, we are thankful that TDOT is now accepting applications for the Transportation Alternative Program (TAP). The good news is that TDOT did not transfer any of the TAP funds into another roadway funding program, meaning that all $18 million it received for TAP activities from the Federal Highway Administration will remain in this program under which bicycle and pedestrian projects can be funded. If you would like more information about applying for TAP funding in Tennessee you can go to http://www.tdot.state.tn.us/local/grants.htm. If you are interested in joining the Tennessee Network, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.