Throughout 2022, Missourians for Responsible Transportation [MRT] worked across the state to advance active transportation opportunities for Missourians. Learn more about who we are, what we do, and why we do it via our 2022 MRT Annual Update.
Our mission is to be the leader in fostering strong communities by aligning advocacy efforts for streets, roads, and trails that work for all Missourians.
Ron Bentch, Project Director (2018-2022)
Ron Bentch has been amazed at the growth of the MRT partnership over the past 5 years. Seeing a great team of people come together has been the highlight of his time at MRT, knowing that they will carry the mission forward. Ron transitioned in April 2022 from MRT to working for Missouri State Parks as the Rock Island Trail Development Coordinator. In this role, he is working with communities and landowners to facilitate efforts towards the development of the 144-mile Rock Island rail corridor into a trail.
Cindy DeBlauw, Interim Project Director/Consultant (2022-present)
Cindy DeBlauw supported MRT for the majority of 2022 as an Interim Project Director. She joined MRT in May 2022 to fill-in for Ron Bentch while he was on sabbatical with the National Park Service. She continues to support MRT on a part-time basis and will assist with the transition to a new MRT Executive Director. She will also assist with the implementation of two Department of Health and Senior Service contracts.
Taylor March, Executive Director (starting February 1, 2023)
We are excited to announce that Taylor March, Director of Programs at Trailnet, is coming on to fulfill our new role as MRT Executive Director! Taylor will bring years of experience to the table as a dedicated advocate for 'Streets for All,' that he helped to champion across the St. Louis region. Stay tuned for his full hiring announcement!
Jackson Hotaling, Community Engagement Coordinator (2021-present)
Jackson Hotaling continues to support MRT at the community and regional level, spending much of his time supporting general operations of MRT, as well as our new active transportation regional planning policy initiative, supported by Missouri Foundation for Health. One of his highlights from this year was presenting about Complete Streets in rural Missouri to more than 600 national transportation professionals, as part of a webinar hosted by the National Center for Rural Road Safety.
Future Rock Island Trail State Park / Active Living Communities of Practice
Rock Island Trail is establishing itself as Missouri's next great state park!
On December 14th, 2021, Missouri State Parks announced the acceptance of the 144-mile abandoned Rock Island rail corridor as Missouri’s newest state park! Throughout 2022, MRT supported many organizations (including Missouri State Parks, Missouri State Parks Foundation, Missouri Parks Association, and Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc) to grow support, awareness, and funding for the establishment for the Rock Island Trail extension from Windsor to Beaufort. As a result, serious headway has been made toward the development of the park.
Now that the corridor is accepted as a future state park and our work on the Rock Island Trail initiative shifts, MRT is continuing to pursue opportunities to work directly with the University of Missouri on assessing key health and economic indicators of communities along the trail through a research study. The goal of this project is to learn about the power of interconnected trails, and to determine how they can improve the lives of individuals within these communities. Although the project was not initially funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), University of Missouri researchers continue to work with NIH to improve the proposed project and increase the likelihood of funding.
Further information about the progress on the trail development and future public informational meetings can be found via the Missouri State Parks’ Rock Island Corridor website. Donations towards the development of the trail can be made via the Missouri State Parks Foundation.
Active Living Communities of Practice [ALCP]
MRT serves as a consultant for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services' Active Living Communities of Practice grant. This State Physical Activity and Nutrition grant was awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a five-year period beginning in 2018. The goal of this grant is to assist communities with adopting active transportation policies and plans in order to enhance the connectedness within communities to everyday destinations. We host regular virtual meetings to foster collaboration and provide educational opportunities, as well as offer technical and planning assistance to ALCP communities to support active transportation planning development.
In 2022, MRT concluded technical assistance with the ALCP Cohort 4 communities (Bethany, Clinton, Hickory County, Owensville, Versailles, West Plains, Riverside, Ville/Greater Ville, and Grandview). We also brought on the ALCP Cohort 5 communities (Cole Camp, Stover, Versailles, Barnett, Belle, Bland, Owensville, Rosebud, and Gerald), which are centered along the future Rock Island Trail State Park. We hosted several trainings and encouraged ALCP communities to bring key community stakeholders to the training sessions. During these trainings, ALCP partners had the opportunity to connect with communities statewide to learn about and experience multimodal transportation systems in practice. We hosted a training in Versailles, MO which you can learn about via our MRT blog post, and we also hosted a 'Capitol Day' training for communities along the Rock Island Trail that are represented in the new ALCP cohort.
Missouri Hands-Free Coalition
The Missouri Hands-Free Coalition's mission is to “Eliminate distracted driving-related injuries and deaths on Missouri roadways through policy, education, and collaboration.” The coalition is formed from more than 40 partner organizations ranging from state legislators, victim advocates, law enforcement, educational institutions, insurance groups, non-profits, and more. MRT partners in the coalition are Jackson Hotaling (MRT), John Montgomery (Ozark Greenways), Michael Kelley (BikeWalkKC), and Taylor March (Trailnet). The coalition has been lauded as a national model for other states to follow, and a national coalition is gaining steam after being partially modeled after our coalition in 2021, which held initial representation from MRT.
Formerly Ron Bentch, and now Taylor March, coordinate monthly meetings as well as workgroup meetings, which were revamped in 2022 to encompass the Legislative Affairs Workgroup and Public Information/Advocacy Workgroup. Additional headway is made through Capitol lobby days and distracted driving awareness days, organized by the coalition to bring to attention the issue of distracted driving to the state legislature. The coalition expanded an educational program started in Fall 2021, the “Buckle Up/Phone Down High School Showdown.” The program allows schools to compete for prizes while learning actively and raising awareness about the problems associated with distracted driving. It also now includes programming for elementary schools, high schools, and businesses.
The Missouri Hands-Free Coalition is gearing up for a successful 2023 Missouri Legislative Session. Both Missouri Department of Transportation and AAA Missouri (both represented in the coalition) developed language for bills to support legal measures against distracted driving. Several bills incorporated this language following pre-filing, which commenced December 1st.
MRT is excited to announce that beginning in October 2022, MRT was awarded a Highway Safety Grant by the Missouri Department of Transportation to support the Missouri Hands-Free Coalition. Stay tuned for updates in 2023 about how this grant will support awareness for the dangers of distracted driving.
Updates for the Missouri Hands Free Coalition can be found via their Facebook page.
Statewide Active Transportation Planning
Missouri Complete Streets [MOCS] Advisory Committee
Missouri Completes Streets [MOCS] (formerly known as Missouri Livable Streets) is an initiative sponsored by the Department of Health and Senior Services [MO DHSS]. MO DHSS contracts with MRT to lead the MOCS Advisory Committee, and several MRT and MRT partner organization staff serve on the steering committee. MRT hosts quarterly MOCS Advisory Committee meetings from an in-person to a virtual setting and expanded the representation of the committee to include a broad range of stakeholders from around the state. Several goals and objectives have been identified by the committee. These include:
MOCS maintains a website and a Facebook page, outlining successes and relevant initiatives. To participate in the MOCS Advisory Committee, please visit the MOCS webpage to learn more and email MissouriCompleteStreets@health.mo.gov.
We also would like to send our condolences to the family of Paul Wojciechowski, who passed away in December. Paul was an advocate for active transportation across Missouri, and supported MOCS. His obituary is available via Schrader's website.
'Movement is Life': Advancing Policy Initiatives with Support from Missouri Foundation for Health
In December 2021, Missouri Foundation for Health [MFH] awarded MRT with financial support through 2023 to support regional and statewide transportation policy advocacy. We are collaborating closely with Regional Planning Commissions to better coordinate and effect positive changes for walking, biking, and transit access on the regional level. We are primarily working within MoDOT's Southwest District, bringing together four regional planning entities: Kaysinger Basin Regional Planning Commission, Southwest Missouri Council of Governments, Harry S Truman Coordinating Council, and Joplin Area Transportation Study Organization.
Additionally, this project is supporting the efforts of MOCS to advocate at the statewide level for inclusive active transportation planning initiatives. As Jason Ray, the Executive Director for Southwest Missouri Council of Governments, likes to say, "Funding follows planning." With new federal transportation funding for active transportation looming, as a result of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, now is the time to think big at the local, regional, statewide, and national level about how to best plan for the future. Developing a transportation system that works for all travelers, including those that walk, bike, and use transit, is possible once plans are in place to map out future development strategies.
Consulting and Grants
Building Communities for Better Health [BCBH]: Reducing Chronic Disease-Related Disparities
MRT received a contract with MO DHSS to provide technical assistance to communities seeking to reduce chronic disease risk factors through physical activity and tobacco use prevention. Similar to the ALCP contract, MRT will assist local coalitions with adopting complete streets policies and active transportation plans through a collaborative learning process. MRT is partnering with another MO DHSS contractor, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), to provide training and technical assistance to communities. CADCA will focus on tobacco use prevention aspects of the project. Stay tuned for updates in 2023 about our work with the BCBH communities.
In August, MRT completed our deliverables for the Anonymous Donor grant, which allowed us to serve ten rural Missouri communities, comprising of Cohort 1 (Clinton, Hermitage, Stover, Appleton City, and Hickory County) and Cohort 2 (Lincoln, Warsaw, Lowry City, Wheatland, and Windsor). We completed walk audit documents and action planning priorities for each of the communities.
Walk Audit Consulting
To support Kaysinger Basin Regional Planning Commission (KBRPC) and the City of Butler, MRT conducted a walk audit and completed a walk audit report. The City of Butler and KBRPC are using this report to inform updates to Butler’s Comprehensive Plan. To request a copy of the document, or to connect with us about creating a walk audit document for your community, please email email@example.com.
Updates from MRT Partners
BikeWalkKC (Kansas City, MO)
Local Motion (Columbia, MO)
Ozark Greenways (Springfield, MO)
Trailnet (St. Louis, MO)
Participation in Other Organizations
We serve on working groups and as members of several other local, state, and national level organizations that focus on forwarding the goals of our mission. MRT has a presence:
Here are some highlights: