Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Update 1 - bike plan

Been so busy I haven't had an opportunity to blog. Way back on October 10th a couple of us got together downtown and rode our bikes over to the Bicycle Fix in Westview, to hear Paul Dial, Director of Frederick County Parks and Recreation Dept., give a presentation on the county bikeways plan. It was sponsored by Friends of Frederick County, a smart growth group, and was very interesting.

Paul was there to primarily give the "Parks and Rec" viewpoint. The plan has several groups in the county with a stake in the plan. Planning, of course, the Board of County Commissioners, to approve stuff, and the Highway Dept. and Parks and Rec. to execute projects. From a road perspective, the county has been without a transportation planner for some time (or has had somebody doing transportation planning as an additional duty). I heard that they have filled the vacancy, so here's hoping that there may be positive activity not too far off. The question also exists as to who in the highway department is the person to act on the planning and BOCC recommendations.

The main thing I took away was the absolute glacial pace at which these things move. The plan is almost 10 years old, and Ballenger Creek is the first part of the plan to see any action.

It was interesting to hear the rational for choosing the Ballenger Creek as the pilot path. (short, high density population, developer funding sections of the path). As an aside, I found the information about using the planning process to require developers to build portions of the trail as part of there approval process was really interesting. Some of the FOF folks were squirming a bit to see how much of the this path is developer funded. But, using only taxpayer funds, the path would take several more years (beyond the four or five already) to get built. Most new paths come under capital improvements, and about 10% of the parks budget goes for bike and trail related stuff.

Here is a generalization: 1 mile of paved path = $1,000,000. Woosh. It was asked why not more natural surface trails, and Paul said that it depends on densities and usage studies, and that certainly the majority will probably not be paved.

Some changes don't have to be in the capital budget process. Volunteer built trail could be done as a 'minor improvement,' in existing parks, depending on the cost. The off road cyclist in me is interested.

Another interesting point brought out was the lack of any prioritization in the bikeways plan. What needs to be built first? Paul pointed out that Parks gets its direction from the BOCC, so we, the riding public and trail users, need to
get together and decide what should come next and then take that to the commissioners.

Speaking of the Bikeways and Trail Plan, I'm currently going through the Bike Plan, Bikeways and Trails Standards Document, and all of the county regional plans to generate a list of the roads designated as 'on road' portions of the plan. This list can be used to confirm that any county highway work done on these routes does indeed bring them up to meet the standards. I'm also working to get the County GIS department to create an overlay showing the existing State and local facilities, and the planned ones.

Big thanks to Friends of Frederick County for organizing the event and to Bicycle Fix for being such good hosts!


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