2013-05-02 / News

Bike-lane study will postpone paving work on North Road

Councilor Dickinson wants to go forward with project
By Margo Sullivan

The job paving all of North Road will wait at least nine months until the town engineer can study the feasibility of installing a bike lane, the Town Council decided at its April 24 meeting.

The lane would link the Jamestown Shores with the village.

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser suggested the change of plan in response to residents’ comments at the April 8 public hearing on the budget. At that meeting, Shores residents Samira Hakki and Carol Nelson-Lee asked the councilors to consider adding a bike lane to North Road as part of the repaving project.

The Bike Path Design Committee also “strongly endorsed” a bike lane along North Road as a means to promote safer travel.

Keiser said he discussed the bike lane with Town Engineer Mike Gray, who said a feasibility engineering study would be needed.

“Mike’s optimistic it can be done,” said Keiser. The study would have to be shown to the Department of Environmental Management in order for the state to grant the necessary permits.

Most of the study could be done in-house, Keiser said, except for some permitting issues that would need expertise.

“The bike lane is not something we can do informally,” he said. “It’s got to be done through a formal study.”

Meanwhile, paving on North Road wouldn’t stop entirely, said Keiser, since crews could still move forward with the section north of the transfer station.

The bike path will add between $250,000 and $300,000 to the costs of repaving the road, according to Gray.

“It’s going to require drainage,” he said. He calculated 6,500 linear feet of drainage and catch basins would be involved.

Councilor Eugene Mihaly asked Gray how long the study would take.

“My instinct is the project should be done at the earliest opportunity,” Mihaly said.

Gray said the study and the drainage work would go into the upcoming fiscal year, but if the council wanted to install a bike lane, it would have to be completed before the road is repaved.

“Once we pave it, there’s no point in going back,” he said. The cost to rip up the road and install a bike lane would be too high, according to Gray.

Mihaly said, as a biker, he would like to see a lot more bike paths on the island. But despite his personal interest, he could see the North Road lane might not be worth the cost if another bike path were built to connect the neighborhood with downtown.

He asked Keiser about the status of the cross-island connector that has been proposed to link the Jamestown Shores with the village via the North Road reservoir.

“There’s a big factor in here that should drive part of this conversation,” he said. “Where do we stand on the cross-island bike trail?”

Keiser said the proposal was “in permitting” before the state Department of Environmental Management. But if the cross-island connector could not be built, and the town repaved North Road without the bike lane, then the “option would be foregone,” he said. There would be no path connecting the two areas.

Councilor Blake Dickinson expressed misgivings about postponing the work for nine months.

“Who expanded the scope of the project?” he asked Gray. “The more complicated this becomes, it becomes less palatable.”

“We ought to do what we can do,” Dickinson added. He said the town should repave North Road instead of running the risk that work might never be done.

Earlier, the councilors had decided to ask voters to approve a 10-year bond for the money to pave all of North Road, rather than bite off sections with a pay-asyou go option.

Dickinson had suggested going out to bond, which would offer financing advantages, as well as move the work forward. He urged councilors to stay with the original plan, send the bond question to voters, and “let them decide if they want to pave the roads or do a bike lane.”

Everyone will not favor spending the money for a bike lane, he said.

“We live on an island,” he said. “We ought to find a quick and easy way to move this forward. If we hold this back, it becomes more complicated.” Dickinson feared a stalemate.

Councilor Mary Meagher agreed the councilors should let voters decide, but not until they could present all the facts.

“But speaking from the optimist’s point of view, I think you’re absolutely right,” she said. “It should go before the voters.”

Meagher said the council should “lay it out in a clear way” with alternatives and drawings, even if doing the study meant a ninemonth delay.

Council President Kristine Trocki agreed.

“It’s important to present people with all the information we have,” she said. Trocki then asked Keiser if it was too late “to put something together” for the voters. The Financial Town Meeting is on June 3.

“Yes, way too late,” he replied. “This didn’t materialize until the public hearing.”

Dickinson asked what to do about the bond now that the council has decided to delay the roadwork.

“Wouldn’t it be prudent to remove the bond?” he asked.

“No,” Meagher replied.

Trocki suggested continuing the discussion to the May 6 council meeting.

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