City, consultants unveil far-reaching transportation plan

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comNovember 18, 2013 

The city unveiled a consultant’s far-reaching, long-range plan for potential alternative transportation projects Tuesday at the City Services Center.

The plan was developed and presented by URS, an international engineering, construction and design consulting firm. It includes 62 ideas for projects that would add over 125 miles of “pedestrian amenities” such as multi-use trails and sidewalks, and almost 140 miles of “bicycle amenities," such as bike lanes and multi-use trails, like the recently completed Fall Line Trace rails-to-trails project.

“This is a very ambitious set of ideas when you look at it cumulatively,” said Eric Lusher, project manager for URS. “I use the word ambitious because our expectation is not that all 62 of these projects are going to be constructed. We want to get to the point where we understand which projects make the most sense.”

City Director of Planning Rick Jones, the city’s project manager for the plan, agreed that it’s unlikely that all the ideas would come to fruition.

“We can’t do everything all at once,” he said, but added that the popular Fall Line Trace was first envisioned in a similar plan 20 years ago.

The ideas in the plan, which was rolled out in a public hearing attended by about 50 citizens, included:

A possible greenway multi-use trail that would roughly follow the path of Bull Creek from extreme east Columbus to the Riverwalk.

An extension of the Fall Line Trace, which currently runs from Psalmond Road to the Midtown Medical Center, to the Riverwalk.

A beltway that would circle the city, connecting to the Riverwalk near its north and south ends and reaching out as far as Schatulga Road.

It also included applying a concept known as “road diets” to roads that are wider than traffic counts warrant. Those roads would be reduced to two lanes, with the extra width used for sidewalks and bike paths.

Among the routes proposed for road diets were:

• 10th Street from 10th Avenue to the Riverwalk, connecting it to the Fall Line Trace.

• 10th Avenue from Linwood Boulevard to Victory Drive.

• Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard from 10th Avenue to Buena Vista Road.

• Edgewood Road from Hilton Avenue to University Avenue.

The process for developing the plan began in late 2012, when URS began analyzing existing transportation conditions in the city. In early 2013, it began studying transportation needs, which included holding meetings with “stakeholders,” or people who already use alternative transportation. And finally, Tuesday evening, they presented their recommendations.

“This is in the draft stage. This is not the final,” Lusher told the crowd Tuesday. “There’s a lot of potential out there for alternative transportation in Columbus. I hope we got most of the ideas. There may be some ideas out there that we didn’t think of. So by all means let us know about that.”

The complete plan can be viewed on the Consolidated Government’s website, columbusga.org/planning, or in hard copy at the city’s public libraries. Anyone who wants to comment on the plan can contact Jones at rjones@columbusga.org or Lusher at eric.lusher@urs.com.

The period for public comment will be open until Jan. 10, 2014, or beyond if needed, Jones said.

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