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."