The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday that it will provide free consulting to help Frankfort make street improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists in the Second Street area.
Frankfort Planning Supervisor Maya DeRosa, who wrote the application for the EPA assistance, described the assistance as “pro bono” consulting provided by the federal agency. She estimated its value at $50,000 to $60,000.
The EPA said it could not currently provide how much it will pay consultants because it uses small business contracts procured through a competitive process.
DeRosa said the main focus of the aid will be to redesign the intersection of Bridge and West Second streets, near Second Street School. The city considers the wide intersection, with its multiple turn lanes, hazardous for the pedestrians and bicyclists who must cross it, which includes many grade school students.
“A lot of residents said that was a very problematic intersection, and it made them feel unsafe,” DeRosa said.
The intersection is also near the crossing from South Frankfort to downtown. Improving that area, along with the plan’s secondary goal of connecting downtown with the proposed Kentucky River walk/bike trail, is intended to reduce carbon footprints by improving walkability throughout the city. The Kentucky River trail will connect the state Capitol, the historic downtown and the Buffalo Trace Distillery.
“This all dovetails back to the fact that south Frankfort surrounds the state Capitol,” DeRosa said, explaining the idea is to better connect all parts of the city.
The EPA will also provide design assistance for other eco-friendly road and landscape improvements to the Second Street area, possibly including permeable pavement and trees that are drought resistant or provide shade.
Much of these ideas were part of an existing city plan created in 2011 to improve the Second Street area, and DeRosa said the EPA liked what Frankfort had already invested in the project and decided to lend its help.
City Commissioner Sellus Wilder said that since consulting fees often costs tens of thousands of dollars, the EPA assistance is probably the only thing allowing the project to move forward.
“Normally, a project like this would go undone,” Sellus said.
He said he did not know yet how much the city would likely spend on actually making the changes suggested by the consultants. Gary Muller, Frankfort’s planning director, said he thought the consultants would be selected in February and the study would be completed in late August. He and Sellus said they believe the EPA will also help identify grants and funding sources to help pay for the project.
Though a Wednesday press release from the EPA mentioned also helping build bike lanes between the historic downtown and the Capitol, DeRosa said bike lanes were not a major focus of the project but could be part of the consultants’ advice.
The assistance comes through Frankfort’s selection in the Greening America’s Capitals program, which is meant to provide capital cities private-sector sustainable design assistance to strengthen local economies. The project is in its third year.
This year, Des Moines, Iowa, Baton Rouge, La., Helena, Mont. and Indianapolis, Ind., were also selected in the national competition for aid.