The Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study is still seeking public feedback on its proposed plan for improving the area’s bicycle trail network.
Krista Beniston, AMATS planning coordinator, conducted public meetings last week in Kent and Hudson to gather input and comments on the agency’s draft Regional Bike Plan and to promote the upcoming debut of the agency’s bicycling website, switching-gears.org.
“We had a great turnout, about 30 people at each (meeting), and received a lot of good feedback,” Beniston said.
However, she said the agency would like even more public input on the bike plan. Area residents are invited to a discussion about it during the AMATS Citizen Involvement Committee meeting set for 7 p.m. March 15 at the Richard Howe House in Akron.
“Feedback will be incorporated into the plan and we will be looking for approval from the policy committee – the AMATS board made up of elected officials – on March 22,” Beniston said.
During last week’s meeting in Kent, Beniston gave attendees an overview of the new bike trail connections being constructed in the area over the next several years.
AMATS recently awarded Kent funding to create a new leg of the Portage Hike & Bike Trail along S.R. 59 for $700,000.
The new .50-mile section of trail will extend from John Brown Tannery Park to an on-street portion along Haymaker-Parkway, ending where Erie Street will meet up with the University Esplanade extension. Beniston said construction is scheduled for 2016 or 2017.
AMATS also funded part of two new phases of the Freedom Trail for $700,000 each, Beniston said.
Phase one includes an upgrade of the existing trail from Southwest Avenue in Tallmadge to Howe Road and construction of a new multi-purpose trail from Howe Road to Middlebury Road/Portage Hike & Bike Trail in Kent. Beniston said work will take place this year.
Phase two of the Freedom Trail project is construction of a new multi-purpose trail from the Northside Train Station in Akron to Southwest Avenue in Tallmadge in 2014.
Beniston said that AMATS has traditionally planned for and funded off-road trails. The draft bike plan is the agency’s inaugural run at planning for on-road facilities – such as bicycle lanes and racks – to promote cycling as a viable transportation choice.
“At the meetings and in discussions with local communities we hear the need for both on-road and off-road bike infrastructure,” Beniston said. “While some people are more comfortable on separated trails and bike mainly for recreation, others want to see more on-road infrastructure to make commuting by bike (safer), as well as riding recreationally on-road.”
Another thing AMATS officials are hearing, Beniston said, “is the desire to be able to get to trails without having to use a car to get there; essentially taking the car out of the middle. The recommendations in the bike plan are trying to create a bicycle network of both on-road and off-road bike facilities. “
Beniston also told Kent meeting participants about AMATS’ new website devoted to improving and promoting bicycling – both on-road and off-road – in Portage and Summit counties and a small part of Wayne County.
She said SwitchingGears is a site developed by AMATS to get input on regional bike needs for bike planning, help promote biking as a viable transportation choice and provide a community and event forum.
“(The website) will be very flexible and we will be able to update maps, add information, advocate for issues and incorporate other elements that people would like see constantly,” Beniston said.
The new site is expected to go live the first week of March.