2011-05-19 / Front Page

Voters will decide whether bike path is wanted

By Tim Riel

With the Town Financial Meeting looming, one of the decisions that island residents will have is whether to allocate the $21,000 needed to draw up blueprints for the Cross-Island Bike Path Connector put forward by the town’s Bike Path Design Committee.

The proposed path would go east off of North Road between Severance and Cedar Lanes, continue east across the reservoir, and then turn south towards Eldred Avenue. From Eldred Avenue it would go by the soccer fields and connect to East Shore Road where it would ultimately end near the Jamestown Golf Course.

“It would be a very pleasant ride,” said Bob Sutton, chairman of the committee. “There is an aesthetic view of the land [along that route].”

Sutton said that there are multiple reasons that the town voters should support the path. He said that the connector would be an easy and safe way for children on the north end to get to the soccer fields. It is also a way to get to the bus stop near the golf course where bikers can put their bikes on the bus and go into Newport or to continue into the village without traveling the Great Creek stretch of North Road.

The posted speed limit along the stretch is 40 mph and the shoulders are too narrow for bikers, he said, which makes the route into downtown a dangerous one for residents from the north end.

“There is no safe connection to get to East Shore Road,” Sutton said.

Another reason is public access. According to Sutton, the land around the reservoir has been protected by the town, but residents have no significant reason to visit it.

“The town has worked hard to protect that land over the years,” Sutton said. “We have protected it but don’t have any use for it. It would be nice to be able to appreciate that land.”

As with all issues that require money from taxpayers, the bike path plan has its detractors.

“As a water customer, I am deeply concerned about any heavy construction equipment near or in the vicinity of this water source,” wrote Blake Dickinson in a letter to the Jamestown Press.

It continued, “As a premium water customer, it should come as no surprise that placing this resource at risk with leaky, or any construction equipment for that matter, is unacceptable.”

Sutton refuted the idea that construction of the bike path would in any way affect the reservoir. He added that if the path were to be completed and residents were routinely passing through, it still wouldn’t disturb the town’s water source.

“Anyone can go to the reservoir now, so a bike path wouldn’t change the access to it,” Sutton said. He added that having a bike path along the toe of the reservoir doesn’t mean that residents will stop and play along the water. To make sure of this, he said, part of the plan is to construct a chain link fence.

“It will keep residents from thinking that the reservoir is part of the amenity,” Sutton said.

As for construction equipment, Sutton said that process is not complicated. “It’s actually a very simple construction,” Sutton said. “There won’t be much excavating.” He said that around the reservoir stretch of the path, contractors would dig about one foot deep into the ground, fill it with gravel and then top it with what would “most likely be pavement.”

In March, another resident argued against the bike path at a Town Council meeting, saying that, “Bikers won’t use it because most cyclists don’t want to ride on crooked paths.”

“It’s not to see how fast someone can ride a bike,” Sutton said. “It’ll be used by joggers, walkers and children. It’ll be a way for kids in the north end to get to the soccer field safely.”

Sutton added that one bridge would have to be erected to complete the project. The bridge, which would be about 20 feet in length, would cross over the spillway at the reservoir. “It would just be a functional bridge,” Sutton said, meaning that it wouldn’t be anything extravagant, just a structure with rails to let riders and walkers get over the spillway safety.

The $21,000 that is being asked from Jamestown voters for the bike path isn’t for construction costs, but for a contractor to draw up blueprints. What if the town passes the referendum, design plans are completed, but funding for construction isn’t available?

“We will not spend a cent of the money unless we can guarantee that we have money for construction,” Sutton said. The money for construction costs would come entirely from the state Department of Transportation. “We will not make an agreement with a contractor for the design until we have a definite agreement with the Department of Transportation to proceed with the construction funding.”

If the town passes the grant at the June 6 Financial Town Meeting, the next step is to get a permit from the state Department of Environmental Management. Since the reservoir is present in the plans, the path crosses through what would be considered wetlands, which is a permitted regulated area.

Sutton said that he is optimistic about getting the permit. “I don’t think there is any chance that we wouldn’t get the permit,” he said.

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