The Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant program, also known as RAISE, has allowed the federal government to direct $21.5 million to the City of Excelsior Springs, Missouri. This historical figure is thanks to Congressman Sam Graves and elected officials at every level giving their support to the project that will allow for transformational infrastructure changes that will improve the entire west side of the city. The RAISE Discretionary Grant provides a unique opportunity for the Department of Transportation to invest in road, rail, transit, and port projects that promise to achieve national objectives.
In a release from Congressman Graves’ office, the congressman said, “I’m thrilled to see this project receive funding. These improvements are going to greatly enhance safety, both motorists and students walking and biking to school in Excelsior Springs. Congratulations to all who put in the effort to get this grant. I know this project has been a long time coming and can’t wait to see these improvements completed.”
The City of Excelsior Springs spent an intensive period of time getting feedback from the public, working with stakeholders on what improvements were needed, and then seeking funding, which was a five year process. This project is meant to improve safety and connectivity in Excelsior Springs through improvements of current roadways, the addition of sidewalks and trails, and create a pedestrian bridge of the U.S. Highway 69 (US-69).
Grant funds will be used to construct roadway and intersection improvements, sidewalks and shared-use paths, manage stormwater runoff, and enhance the streetscape. The project will create jobs, safer corridors, and eliminate barriers to community destinations.
“The improvements being made will be transformational. Our city will become more walk-friendly and the streetscape along 10 highway will invite shoppers into the shopping corridor,” said City of Excelsior Springs Economic Development Director Melinda Mehaffy.
The current Excelsior Springs transportation network is challenging to motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Access to the city’s basic retail needs, services, education, medical care, and employment are compromised by poor connectivity within the city. Due to a lack of sidewalks and bicycle paths, pedestrians including students, elderly and disabled residents, are unable to safely travel within the community. This in addition to limited transit services and lack of taxi/ride share options.
Excelsior Springs City Manager Molly McGovern states, “The Safe Streets & Sidewalks Project is a result of two separate grassroots efforts that seek similar outcomes. Families expressed an overwhelming need for sidewalks and traffic improvements on the west side of Excelsior Springs due to traffic conflicts between cars and pedestrians before and after school. In tandem, the Chamber of Commerce began to evaluate how to get travelers to visit businesses on the west side of the community. Rather than to drive further into downtown Excelsior Springs, without stopping. Historic Downtown Excelsior Springs is a major attraction to visitors and residents alike. Fall 2018, the Chamber of Commerce formed the Westside Committee to evaluate needs within the west side business district, including the need for visual, and functional improvements to capture consumer spending. The Committee has formed the Westside Community Improvement District (CID) to provide for the desired improvements.
The Safe Street and Sidewalks Improvement Project is a top priority for the City. Locally, the project will help the city revitalize a critical economic corridor and improve citizen safety. The project complements efforts to focus investment and increase opportunities for commercial and residential growth.”
The City is worked in partnership with the Excelsior Springs Area Chamber of Commerce’s West Side Business Committee to identify improvements needed to connect the west side business districts with the other areas of the community.
“This is an exceptional moment for our city and we wish to thank and congratulate our city leadership for the countless hours that went into making this a reality! The RAISE grant funds will significantly improve the safety and accessibility for everyone walking, shopping or working along the West Side Corridor. The Chamber is very committed to working with all parties through each phase of implementation and we eagerly look forward to the positive impact this will have on our community,” says Bill Westerheide, President of the Excelsior Springs Area Chamber of Commerce.
Improvements will be made in three phases, for all to be completed by 2030. The first phase will include trail (sidewalk) paths to be established on Wornall Road, near Cornerstone Elementary and the Middle School. The first phase will also include construction of a pedestrian overpass of 69 Highway. Additionally, an advanced warning system for EMS response will be installed at the Dunbar train crossing, to alert emergency responders when there is a train crossing so they can alter their path across town in an emergency.
Excelsior Springs Mayor Sharon Powell says, “I would like to sincerely thank Congressman Graves and his staff for their support in helping us obtain the RAISE Grant to improve the infrastructure around three of our schools. This project will greatly enhance the safety of our children as they walk, ride their bikes, or drive to these schools. Thank you also to the dedicated city staff that worked tirelessly preparing the application for this grant.”
The award is the largest awarded in the state of Missouri and the 7th city listed highest to lowest in rural categories throughout the nation. Other Missouri communities that have received RAISE funding include: City of Independence ($10,160,000); City of Kansas City ($5,000,000); Mid-America Regional Council ($5,600,000); City of Maryville ($5,925,780).
For complete details, maps, and studies on the project, visit esmo-safestreets.com.