TO: Mayor and Town Council
FROM: W. Calvin Horton, Town Manager
SUBJECT: Public Hearing on a Draft Bicycle and Pedestrian Action Plan
DATE: September 20, 2004
The purpose of this public hearing is to provide citizens an opportunity to comment on a Draft Bicycle and Pedestrian Action Plan, proposed to be a component of the Town’s Comprehensive Plan (please see Attachment 1).
After this public hearing, we recommend that the Council refer comments and suggestions received to the Manager for preparation of a report and recommendations to the Council on the draft Action Plan and how to implement it.
SUMMARY OF DRAFT PLAN
The Draft Action Plan has been conceived as a long range plan. It would become a component of the Town’s Comprehensive Plan. The draft plan consists of a plan document, a proposed bicycle map, and a proposed pedestrian facilities map (please see Attachment 1). The Draft Plan is divided into 4 chapters:
The Plan Work Group subdivided the recommended actions into two categories: 1) Engineering and 2) Education and Encouragement. These categories were selected in order to be consistent with bicycle plans across the nation and be consistent with the Durham and Orange Counties Regional Bicycle Plan adopted by the Metropolitan Planning Organization in 1993.
1. Engineering Actions
Recommended engineering actions consist of the provision of and improvements to:
For the Plan’s recommended engineering actions, the construction of facilities could be incorporated into the Town’s Capital Improvements Program process.
2. Education and Encouragement Actions
Recommended education and encouragement actions include:
· the provision of bicycle education classes;
· the publication of facilities maps and walks and rides maps;
· participation in the safe routes to school program;
· the provision of way marked routes and advisory signage;
· the development of a strategy to lobby for State and federal funds; a strategy to lobby State agencies and other agencies as appropriate to make policy changes to increase bicycle and pedestrian use;
· annual review of the actions set out in this Plan by the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board in conjunction with the Town’s Capital Improvements Program; and
· the development of performance measures or benchmarks for the annual review.
These tasks would need to be considered as part of the Town’s annual Budget and work program.
Table 1 of the Draft Plan sets out a summary schedule of the actions contained in the Plan with proposed short-term (0-2 years), mid-term (2-5 years), and long-term (5-10 years) time frames (please see Table 1 in Attachment 1).
In review of the Draft Action Plan thus far by citizens, Advisory Boards, and staff, the following issues have emerged (please see Attachments 4 – 7):
The Draft Plan sets out a general approach to the implementation of providing facilities improvements (Chapter 4, p. 25). Based on the objectives of the Plan set out in Chapter 1, emphasis would be given to providing continuous facilities, connecting existing and programmed facilities, and providing access to the most popular origins and destinations. The Draft Plan acknowledges that the facilities improvements set out in Chapter 3, “Proposed Plan,” and identified on the bicycle and pedestrian facilities maps, will take many years to accomplish. It recommends that there should be an overriding principle where possible to undertake packages of improvements (Please see Issue 2 below). However, the Plan allows for individual or isolated improvements to be undertaken and sets out considerations that would apply to such projects.
Sidewalks: The Draft Plan identifies four broad priorities for sidewalk construction using the Town’s adopted sidewalk ranking system. The Plan proposes that Council should select projects from the either the first or second priority categories as funds and material considerations allow. As is now the case, selection considerations would include, but are not limited to, the availability of right-of-way, construction feasibility, whether a facility is needed and the potential combination with other proposed bicycle and pedestrian facilities identified in the plan. Projects would not normally be selected from the third priority category unless or until there were no projects feasible in the higher priority categories for inclusion in the Town’s annual construction plan in any given year. Long range improvements would either be tackled as development reached these locations or as state improvement projects were undertaken.
Off Road Paths: The Draft Plan gives highest priority to the construction of facilities linking Manning Drive to Prestwick Road as part of a combination of improvements to link the Meadowmont, Glen Lennox and the Oaks neighborhoods to the UNC central Campus.
Crossing Improvements: In order to assess which are the most pressing pedestrian/bicycle crossing improvements for implementation, the Draft Plan recommends undertaking a detailed look of each location as a first priority action of this plan by the spring of 2005 if possible.
Priority thereafter would be given to the implementation of pedestrian/bicycle crossing improvements which would enhance safety, connectivity with other facilities and that could be carried out in conjunction with the provision of other facilities identified in the Plan.
Bicycle Advisory Routes: The Draft Plan recommends selecting 2 or 3 routes as a pilot initiative and then if successful sign other routes as funds allow. The routes could either be numbered or named.
Bicycle Facilities (Bicycle Lanes): The Draft Plan recommends that bicycle lanes and striped bicycle lanes be implemented according to the Town’s adopted bicycle facilities policy. A recommended action of this plan is that the Town make an assessment of each existing arterial and collector street in order to determine whether wide outside lanes or bicycle lanes would be appropriate.
The Draft Plan recommends implementation of facilities in the form of packages as a way to improve connectivity. Packages of improvements would be made up of a combination of sidewalks, crossing improvements, off road paths, and bicycle facilities which provide accessibility to an area and connect it to a wider system. The Draft Plan recommends an approach which combines the provision of improvements into coordinated packages for defined areas. It identifies and maps the following six potential packages:
Package 1: Glen Lennox, The Oaks and Meadowmont to UNC Central Campus and to University Mall. (p. 27 Attachment 1).
Package 2 Southern Village to UNC Central Campus and Downtown. (p. 30 Attachment 1).
Package 3: Intersection Ephesus Church Rd and US 15-501. (p. 32 Attachment 1).
Package 4: Downtown. (p. 34 Attachment 1).
Package 5: Airport Road. (p. 37 Attachment 1).
Package 6: Northside Neighborhood. (p. 37 Attachment 1).
An advantage to the “package” approach is that improvements can be coordinated. An example of coordination is providing a crossing or a pedestrian refuge at the same time as a sidewalk instead of in disjointed increments. Combining improvements in an area may also provide economies of scale in construction costs, design efforts, and securing approvals from agencies such as the NCDOT and utilities companies. The Plan recommends that at least one package be included in an annual construction plan.
A disadvantage of concentrating efforts in one area is that it could result in high priority improvements located in other areas not being done. Alternately, relatively lower priorities located within a package area may be undertaken because they are part of the package. The potential estimated cost of the packages is not known and the time and expense required to estimate the costs of each package of improvements would be considerable. The costs of a single package could exceed the amount of funds expected to be available through the Capital Improvements Program or potential bond funding in any given year. Rather than committing to carrying out all elements of am improvement package in one area, leaving no funds for other high priority needs, we recommend that the Council consider packages as guidelines for coordinated improvements while allowing some funding to meet other needs in other neighborhoods.
One issue identified in advisory board review to date is the proposal in the Action Plan to provide an off road path for cyclists and pedestrians along Battle Branch connecting the UNC Central Campus to Estes Drive and University Mall. The Draft Plan states:
“The existing unpaved Battle Branch Greenway Trail connects UNC Campus and downtown with The Community Center Park and also Estes Drive/University Mall. The provision of a hard surfaced off road path within the corridor of the Battle Branch Greenway Trail could provide an off road alternative for cyclists which would by-pass Franklin Street, Fordham Boulevard and Raleigh Road. The provision of a path here suitable for cyclists would be a desirable addition to this plan.” (p. 16)
The proposal would be to provide a facility within the corridor of Battle Branch Park which may be on a different alignment and therefore in addition to or replacement of the existing natural surface paths which make up the current Battle Branch Greenway Trail .Several citizens have raised objections with staff and to advisory boards and commissions about this matter. The property is partly owned by the University of North Carolina and partly by the Town. Therefore, the Draft Plan should acknowledge that provision of such a facility would require the prior agreement of the Town and the University. The Greenways Commission has made a recommendation to this effect (please see Attachment 4 ).
4. Greenways Master Plan Update
The Draft Action Plan has included the future greenways identified by the Greenways Master Plan adopted by the Town in 1998. An update of that Plan is currently underway so it should be noted that these plans will contain differences. A future amendment would be needed to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Action Plan to coordinate any differences.
PROCESS FOR IMPLEMENTATION
The Draft Action Plan provides an expanded framework for the development of a network of connecting facilities over time. Currently, the Council adopts an annual Sidewalk and Bicycle Facilities Construction Plan based on a sidewalks priority list after holding a public forum to receive citizen input in the Fall of each year.
Once adopted by the Council as a long-range planning document, the Action Plan would be a guide and resource in developing the annual Construction Plan approved by the Town Council. The annual program recommendation would include cost estimates for projects and or packages, information about the feasibility of constructing the facilities identified, and any potential for packaging combinations of facilities.
The Annual Construction Plan would take into account the objectives of the Action Plan, the priorities identified, and other controlling factors including but not limited to, construction feasibility, the availability of funding from the Town and the State, right-of-way, and whether a facility is needed.
Many of the projects identified in the Action Plan take time to design and secure approvals, in particular those on State maintained roads. Some elements of packages may take several years to complete. Therefore, an Annual Construction Plan could include a package and individual or isolated facilities. Furthe,r in order to achieve maximum flexibility we believe that the Annual Construction Plan could also identify projects to be planned, cost estimated, designed and implemented over several years in the form of a 3 or 5 year plan.
While the Council is considering adoption of a Draft Bicycle and Sidewalk Plan as a component of the Town’s Comprehensive Plan, we recommend the Council also proceed with its annual process for considering the annual Sidewalk and Bicycle Facilities Construction Plan.
October 11, 2004 Call Public Hearing on Annual Sidewalk and Bicycle Facilities Construction Plan
October 27, 2004 Report to Council with Manager’s Recommendations on Draft Bicycle and Pedestrian Action Plan; Council Consideration of Plan as a Component of Town’s Comprehensive Plan
November 8, 2004 Public Hearing for Annual Sidewalk and Bicycle Facilities Construction Plan
November 22, 2004 Council consideration of Annual Sidewalk and Bicycle Facilities Construction Plan.
Manager’s Preliminary Recommendation: After this public hearing, we recommend the Council refer comments and suggestions received to the Manager for preparation of a report, and recommendations to the Council on the draft Action Plan, and how to implement it.
Advisory Board recommendations received to date are attached (please see Attachments 4 through 6). Some Advisory Boards will meet after the public hearing date, indicated in the list below.
Community Design Commission Recommendation: Scheduled September 22.
Greenways Commission Recommendation: Please see Attachment 4.
Historic District Commission Recommendation: Please see Attachment 5.
Housing and Community Development Advisory Board Recommendation: No comment.
Library Board of Trustees Recommendation: Scheduled September 20.
Parks and Recreation Commission Recommendation: Summary of Board Action of its August 18 meeting will be provided at the hearing.
Planning Board Recommendation: The Planning Board recommends approval of the Plan, with comments (please see Attachment 6).
Public Arts Commission Recommendation: Scheduled September 15.
Transportation Board Recommendation: Scheduled September 21.
4. Greenways Commission Recommendation (p. 84).
5. Historic District Commission Recommendation (p. 85).
6. Planning Board Recommendation (p. 86).
7. Correspondence Received (p. 87).