Sunday, May 29, 2016

Cross Bellingham bike route reroute around Options High School seems okay with me

I first became aware of plans to build a new school building and it's possible effect on a bike path from Facebook friends as some neighbors in that area were concerned about the plans. Yes, population keeps growing. Immigration happens and Bellingham is growing. New schools and so forth are being built. Studying the issue a bit, I come to the conclusion that I often come to. With planning, new buildings are not always bad. The bike path can remain with it's route altered. Other neighborhood fears about this growth do exist, of which the bike path is just one symbolic topic, but, personally, I don't see much cause for alarm about this new building. I'll admit I don't live directly in that neighborhood, but I do support peaceful means of transport across our city.

Letter (email) I wrote to city officials about this news.

I have been hearing about plans to build a new building for Options High School east of Bellingham High School including plans to vacate the bike path east of Bellingham High School. I hope the connection of this cross town bike route can be maintained even though I realize that the specific route might change.

The cross town route I am thinking of connects South Bay Trail to Railroad Trail. It is a combination of trail and fairly bike friendly road. Basically going from south of Fairhaven District along South Bay Trail to Railroad Avenue. Then across the new bike bridge from North end of Railroad, then past Bellingham High School to along Kentucky Street. Then across James at a flashing crosswalk to turn north again on Nevada. Then under Alabama Street (avoids having to cross Alabama) to trail head for Railroad Trail.

I notice lots of use for this route so I hope it can be preserved. I'll admit even without the Bellingham High Bike Path, I sometimes use Grant Street to make the connection between Ohio and Kentucky. I hear that even Grant Street may become more narrow and/or busy with the new school plan.

Even if changes have to be made, I hope you can find a way to preserve the connection of this cross town bike route in that area.

Old route that is being moved. I've mapped it out on both streets and paths.

City plan for changing route included in their response to my letter.

Response I got.

Dear Mr. Ashworth,

Thank you for your interest and concern regarding the realignment of the trail between Kentucky Street and Ohio Street. I am including an edited version of the map that you sent to illustrate to you how the bicycle and pedestrian connection will be retained, but will simply shift about 200 feet east to Franklin Street.

Here's a little background:

· The School District asked the voters to fund the reconstruction of Options High School in 2013 and it was approved.

· The School District had a pre-application with staff from many City Departments (Planning, Public Works, Fire, Police, Building, etc.) in October 2015 at which they asked if realigning the trail was a possibility and explained why it was needed. In addition to construction an actual school building for the 105 students that have been educated in 7 portable buildings for the past 22 years, the School District will be constructing a regulation-sized soccer field so that Bellingham High School can host soccer games. The 12 feet of the trail easement is need to meet the field specifications.

· For student security, it is not very appropriate to have a public pathway channeling random people into and through a high school campus where several hundred students are studying and playing. This does not happen at any other high school campus in Bellingham.

· There is an option to shift the trail to a half-block section of Franklin Street between Kentucky Street and Iowa Street, which is already being used by walkers and bicyclists as evidenced by the worn pathway between the existing trail and Franklin Street. The half-block of Franklin Street will be marked as a Bike Blvd, the same as Kentucky, Grant, Ellis, and Young. The School District will construct a 10-foot wide sidewalk along Franklin Street on the east side of the new Options High School building, which will allow lighting to be provided, which does not exist on the trail. This will be safer and more comfortable for pedestrians.

The Bellingham Public Works and Parks Departments met with School District officials several times over the past 6 months and are recommending the relocation/realignment of the trail to Franklin Street. Rest assured, there will always be a bicycle and pedestrian connection here.

Chris Comeau, AICP Certified Transportation Planner.

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