Could Houston be a new leader in bike transportation?

A $15 million TIGER grant from the U.S. Dept. of Transportation is helping to transform the City of Houston.

The GH&H Railroad Bridge in Buffalo Bayou, Houston. (Photo: Patrick Feller/Flickr)

Long known as the home for American space flight, Rice University and humid summer weather, Houston, Texas, may soon have a new aarow to add to its quiver: a leader in bike transportation.

On June 22, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the City of Houston $15 million TIGER grant to help build trail connections between Northside Village, Fifth Ward, Third Ward, downtown, Midtown, and the Medical Center. The project, whose cost comes in at $30 million, aims to build 7.9 miles of on-street bike lanes, 2.8 miles of sidewalks, and 7.5 miles of off-street paths, will eliminate major gaps in Houston's bike grid and will provide safe venues for local residents to access bus and light rail stations.

Roksan Okan-Vick, executive director at the Houston Parks Board said in an e-mail to SmartPlanet that she and her team are ecstatic about the award:

"While $15 million will not close all the gaps we have in Houston's hike & bike system, it is a significant shot in the arm -- recognizing and endorsing a new era in Houston where we are slowly but surely shifting from a car-dominated transportation system to alternative means of transportation made possible by our light rail and these hike & bike lanes that we are building and connecting. Our plan is to place Houston amongst the top cities for miles of off-street hike & bike trails in 7 to 10 years. This is a great step towards that goal -- actually and symbolically. Houston bikers unleashed!"

Upon completion, Houston's trail network will extend more than 300 miles -- giving national biking leaders like Boulder, Co., Portland, Or., and Minneapolis, Minn., a run for their money.

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com