Wednesday, May 1, 2013

County ponders bike plan funding

Development of proposal could cost $15,000

Express Staff Writer

Two young men use the Sun Valley bike path just east of Ketchum on a sunny morning. Supporters of a plan to develop more bike and pedestrian transportation infrastructure throughout the valley say that promoting bike riding helps keep the valley healthy and tourism cranking. Express file photo

    A plan to make the Wood River Valley safer and more accessible to pedestrians and bikers might be worth every penny of the $15,000 such a plan could cost, supporters said Tuesday.
    Representatives from the Blaine County Recreation District and Mountain Rides Transportation Authority came before the Blaine County commissioners on Tuesday to discuss forming a comprehensive bike and pedestrian plan for the valley.
    Mountain Rides Executive Director Jason Miller said the idea for a comprehensive plan came when Blaine County was forming its transportation plan last year. Though that plan focused mainly on roads and bridges, Miller said the Blaine County Regional Transportation Committee that developed the plan heard a lot from the community about the need for more bike-friendly roads.
    “This has been something we have talked about for a while,” he said.
    Miller said other communities, such as Coeur d’Alene, which just completed its bike and pedestrian plan, are getting ahead of the Wood River Valley in terms of planning to invest in bike and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure.
    “We believe this is a good investment,” he said.
    BCRD Executive Director Jim Keating said during the meeting that the plan would take a holistic approach, connecting the entire valley but allowing each jurisdiction to use the plan as they see fit.
    Earlier in the meeting, Keating and Sustain Blaine Executive Director Harry Griffith presented more data from Sustain Blaine’s summer trail-use study. Griffith said the trails had 725,000 total trail-user days—which are calculated similarly to skier days—from April through November, with most usage concentrated on the Wood River Trail stretching from Hulen Meadows north of Ketchum to Gannett Road in Bellevue.
    Wood River Bike Coalition Executive Director Brett Stevenson said on Tuesday that this data and other information available would provide background for development of the plan.
    Miller said he expects the cost of developing such a plan to run about $15,000—less than it would be without the background information. Blaine County was requested to provide between $3,000 and $5,000 of that funding, with partners such as Mountain Rides, the BCRD, and the cities of Ketchum, Sun Valley, Hailey, Bellevue and Carey pitching in.
    “With funding in the neighborhood [of $3,000 to $5,000] per partner, we can get to the $15,000 and develop this plan,” he said.
    The commissioners did not make any decisions regarding funding on Tuesday. However, Commissioner Larry Schoen said he feels the plan is overdue—but though the plan might cost the county only a few thousand dollars, implementation was another story.
    “When you think about it, adding three feet of asphalt on either side of Gannett Road [for bike lanes], that’s about eight acres of asphalt,” he said. “The expenses are very real.”
    However, he said he supports the plan overall.
    “This is the kind of thing that can take a community from good to great,” he said.
    Commissioner Angenie McCleary, who is the board’s liaison to the transportation committee, said she is excited by the valley-wide participation in the project so far.
    “It’s very exciting for me,” she said. “This is a really reasonable request and one I am very supportive of.”
    McCleary said she believes money could be found in this fiscal year’s budget for the plan.

Kate Wutz:

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