On Sept. 8, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation president Michael Tipton joined Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker and local officials for a groundbreaking at Ruston’s Rock Island Greenway, a shared-path project funded through the Blue Cross Foundation’s Collective Impact Program.
Ruston’s transportation system is extremely automobile-centric. There are few dedicated bicycling facilities and the existing sidewalk network is fragmented and of inconsistent quality. This single-mode transportation system contributes to chronic inactivity and related health problems; exacerbates inequality by restricting access to health care, jobs, education, and other everyday needs and amenities to those with access to and the ability to use motor vehicles; and helps give rise to a sprawling development pattern that reinforces car-dependency and discourages walking and cycling for transportation and recreation.
The City of Ruston’s plan, supported in part by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation, is therefore strategically targeted at reducing the harmful health outcomes related to chronic inactivity and inequity by filling the most critical gaps in Ruston’s active transportation infrastructure.
“With the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation’s support, 31% of Ruston’s households, and 55% of the businesses, will be within a 1/2 mile (10 minute walk or 2 minute bike ride) of dedicated active transportation infrastructure — dramatically improving mobility for thousands of people of all ages, races, abilities and economic backgrounds — an incredible outcome!” said Mayor Ronny Walker.
“This one million dollar grant from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation will enable the City to build safe and pleasant ways for people to walk and bike along Vaughn Avenue, Line Avenue, and Mississippi Street. These sidewalks and bike lanes will connect schools, parks, childcare and medical services in areas with a high percentage of impoverished African Americans without access to cars. This initiative will also establish safe routes for students from the Louisiana Center for the Blind as they walk between their apartments and downtown classrooms” says Ammen Jordan, Director of Development for the City of Ruston.
ABOUT THE ROCK ISLAND GREENWAY
Thanks to voters’ approval in April ’16 of the Moving Ruston Forward initiative (which funds critical investments in streets, water, sewer, as well as active transportation infrastructure) the City of Ruston is building the first shared-use path in the region.
“The Rock Island Greenway will be the centerpiece of Ruston’s new bicycle/pedestrian network. The greenway will help to make Ruston a safer, healthier, and more appealing place to live for people of all ages and abilities for generations to come.” said Mayor Walker.
The second phase of the Greenway stretches from W. California Avenue (US 80) south to the city limits at W. Tennessee Ave. Eventually this shared-use walking, running and bicycling path and linear park will run almost 6 miles through the city, connecting neighborhoods, schools, Louisiana Tech, downtown and city parks.
“The greenway, and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation funded connectors, will dramatically improve community health by establishing unprecedented opportunities for people to comfortably walk or bike around town,” said Ammen Jordan.