(by Rachel Scofield, staff writer - February 10, 2010)
Messenger photo by Rachel Scofield
A herd of deer graze along the frozen wetlands of Pickerington Ponds Metro Park. A proposed bike path would connect the park to the city of Pickerington.
One goal of the Pickerington city council is to create safe routes to school for local students.
City Engineer Greg Bachman's plan for bicycle paths fits the bill.
Last summer, Pickerington conducted a phone survey to determine the needs of its residents.
From the results, council formulated a "strategic plan" listing priority projects.
Providing children with safe routes to school was a priority, Councilman Brian Wisniewski said.
"There is hardly any busing within a mile of the schools," Wisniewski said. "It's an obvious safety issue."
Students must trespass through yards or walk along streets as they travel back and forth to school, Wisniewski said.
Bachman combined the strategic plan's goal for safe routes to schools with the 2006 Parks and Recreation Facilities Master Plan for bike trails.
"Five trails are envisioned," Bachman said. "The trails are primarily orientated east-west in order to connect Pickerington neighborhoods to the Diley Road multi-purpose trail and to Pickerington Ponds Metro Park."
The proposed trails, which range in length from one half mile to three miles, include the following streets:
* Tussing Road from S.R. 256 to Blacklick Creek (connecting the trail to the new Columbus Metro Parks trail exiting Blacklick Woods Metro Park).
* Refugee Road from Windmiller Drive to Farmstead Drive (where the trail would also connect to a Metro Parks trail).
* Commerce Drive from S.R. 256 to Diley Road (to connect the Melrose subdivision).
* Columbus Street from S.R. 256 to Pickerington Ponds.
* Long Road from Columbus Street to Pickerington Ponds.
The design of the bike paths would vary.
For Columbus Street and Long Road, Bachman proposed that the city create "complete streets."
"'Complete streets' is a term for a roadway system that incorporates features for all users - vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists," Bachman said.
The sections of Long Road and Columbus Street would have bike lanes, curbs, sidewalks and street trees.
The bike lanes would be similar to those along Columbus Street that stretch eight miles west of downtown to Baltimore, Bachman said.
Bachman presented the first phase of the Long Road proposal to the council service committee in January.
In the first phase, the city would transform Long Road from Diley Road to Colony Park Drive into a complete street.
Not only would the bike paths and sidewalks provide a safe route to Pickerington Elementary, the curbs and storm sewers would eliminate persistent flooding problems, Bachman said.
Bachman estimated the cost to renovate the one-half mile section of Long Road to be $1.14 million.
Wisniewski said the strategic plan does not include funding mechanisms for its list of projects.
Bachman said he has not yet calculated the cost of the complete proposal.
If council decides to move forward with the bike paths, the city would need to secure money from sources outside the general fund, Wisniewski said.
"We will seek grants for as much of the cost as possible," Bachman said.
Some funding may still have to come from the general fund as well as impact fees from new development and the storm water fund, Bachman said.
Bachman also made preliminary contact with possible investment partners including Violet Township, the Metro Parks, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT).
The bike path plan is a project close to Bachman's heart.
Bachman has biked or run in many national parks, in addition to participating in the Boston Marathon and the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii.
"It is a good fit for me with my background in engineering and in bicycling/running to further develop the plan and lead the projects forward," Bachman said.