Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Public & Pols Support Bike Pathway

At back-to-back meetings Tuesday night, both the public and elected officials showed support for a pedestrian and bike pathway through the city.

The Economic Development Committee voted unanimously in favor of a proposed multi-use pathway, or “linear park”, running from the Wesleyan Hills residential community through Wesleyan University and into downtown. The project, estimated at one million dollars, would be financed by $800,000 in Federal Transportation Enhancement funds, with the city providing the remaining $200,000.

The project has high interest among the public. Approximately 35 people attended an informational session prior to the committee meeting, with the vast majority voicing support for the proposal -- and especially for a separate appropriation of $20,000 to develop a bicycling “master plan” to include the rest of the city. The committee also approved that expenditure.

Director of Planning, Conservation and Development Bill Warner sketched out a vision that would use 3-4 different pedestrian and bicycle pathways to connect 80% of housing with downtown. But he focused on the multi-purpose pathway from Wesleyan Hills to downtown. “This is a concept; nothing is written in stone” he said. Specific engineering questions would need to be worked out, with public input. But the application for the federal funding is due December 22nd, so the Common Council will need to vote on the application at its December 5th meeting.

Improving roadways with bike lanes, and utilizing some already existing off-road paths, the route would range 3.6 miles from Wesleyan Hills to a set of bike lockers near the Middle Oak Assurance parking garage, and be open to walkers, runners, cyclists, and rollerbladers. (See map.) Warner noted the pathway would connect both upscale housing, such as Wesleyan Hills, and lower income housing on Santangelo Circle. "I'm always talking about the urban/suburban/rural character of Middletown, and this path takes in all three" said Warner.

The Jonah Center for Earth and Art has signed on to the application as an advocate, and will attempt to "create opportunities for public input."

Members of both the public and the committee questioned who would be in charge of maintaining the pathway. Warner replied it would be up to Parks & Recreation. None of the federal money may be used for maintenance.

If the project moves forward, Warner hoped to put "shovel in the ground" by 2014.

At both meetings, Warner used photo slides and a little Google Maps(r) wizardry to take a virtual tour of the proposed route. Many attendees commented on how it allowed them to see the concept more clearly. Committee member Linda Salafia said it helped persuade her. "Last week, I wouldn't have voted for this."


Elizabeth Bobrick said...

Wonderful post, thanks. Nice to read about an exciting project.

Just to clarify, Wesleyan Hills is a mix of small condos, modest houses on small lots, and some larger houses on larger lots. There are no McMansions. I'm not trying to nit pick about anybody's word choice; I just want to keep it clearly in the public eye that this project is not a benefit to be bestowed on an already "upscale" neighborhood.

Many thanks again to the Eye reporter for those of us who couldn't make it to the meeting tonight.

Bill Flood said...

Bill Warner cited the US census as saying Wes Hills was the tract in Middletown with the highest income and highest degree of education. I translated that as "upscale". There might be a better description, but that's where it came from.

Middletown Eye (Ed McKeon) said...

Nice report, Bill.

John Hall said...

I also appreciate the report. Thanks, Bill.

ctmalecyclist said...

With the shortage of funds for alternative transportation I would like to ask the Common Council and Mr. Warner to ensure this money isn't "misappropriated" to create a recreational pathway for joggers and moms with Baby Carriages, where cyclists are safer and faster remaining on the streets (where drivers will now yell at them to "get the heck off the road on onto the 'bike path' ".

There is already a Complete Streets design for creating cycling friendly communities. I would ask Mr Warner and his task force to please use that as a guideline in their design for Middletown.

I would also ask that (while not currently in the proposal) that the Complete Streets design include paths for commuters to get into and out of the city of Middletown. For the past 19 years I have been cycling to work in Hartford March-November. First from Enfield, now from Middletown. I've ridden Rt 17 (east of the river) and Newfield Street (west of the river). Both have their challenges during "rush hour". Rt 17 is out of our control but the city can work on making Newfield Street safer for cyclists by building out the shoulders or thinning the traffic lanes or just posting some signs reminding drivers to "share the road". We can also work on other corridors out of the city to Meriden and other towns where people could easily commute.

Just my two cents.

Mr. Fixit said...

WOW! 3.6 miles of bike paths for a Million bucks. No wonder this country is in trouble.

That works out to $28,600 for each of the 35 interested parties that attended the meeting. Perhaps we should buy each of them an electric vehicle instead.