West Milford plan includes access for bike and pedestrian travel

Date Published: 
Fri, 04/08/2011

West Milford plan includes access for bike and pedestrian travel
Friday, April 8, 2011

Michael Lysicatus, Passaic County Planning Department Senior Planner, was present at the West Milford Environmental Commission (EC) meeting on Monday, April 4 to review the County’s preliminary recommendations for the transportation element of the Passaic County Master Plan and gather input from the EC.

Lysicatus said the Transportation Element places a great deal of emphasis on providing access for bicyclists and pedestrians throughout Passaic County. Bicycle and Pedestrian Priority Corridors map out ideal routes to and from recreational facilities, public transportation, local commercial areas, as well as the rivers and lakes throughout the county.

He explained that the priority corridors address bicycle and pedestrian needs mapping ideal routes to safely move bicycles and pedestrians; provide standards for improving on and off-road facilities such as bike lanes, sidewalks and greenways; coordinating all existing and proposed projects at all junctions and promoting Transit Oriented Development.

Also listed as priorities were: developing policies for more walkable streets that promote place making and economic development; highlighting ideal access points to rivers and trail systems; provision of some detail on the type of facility and integration of standards into the Complete Streets guidelines.

Lysicatus said the County was trying to be as transparent as possible with the plan and information will be available for the public on the County Web site.

Each county road will have standards in accord with all state and national safety standards, he explained. EC Chair Steve Sangle said the township is in the process of planning a streetscape that could be used as a model with the County plan.

Lysicatus said destinations of historic places in the County is a consideration in the plan. He agreed with Sangle that wherever possible the facilities should be in conformance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Sangle said a lot of people who need wheelchairs to get around would like to fish and docks making fishing accessible to them should be a consideration in the planning. On the maps prepared by the county showing scenic and historic byways in the county and bicycle/pedestrian areas, Sangle suggested adding a wheel chair symbol to show areas that are accessible.

In discussing the bike routes, Sangle suggested there be bike racks put in at business places, providing a way for people to get there and also save energy.

Money for revisions to the Passaic County Master Plan is provided in a $240,000 federal grant obtained by the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority. Dates of future information meetings will be announced.

Local bike path

In connection with the County transportation plan, EC members and Planning Board Chair Andy Gargano were inspired to go after additional grant money to complete the original plan for a bikeway between the municipal building complex and the high school.

Planning for a 4.7 mile bike path to go from the town hall area to Bubbling Springs Park and the high school complex began in the late 1990’s.

In February 2009 the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDEP) granted $4.46 million to build or repair bike paths. West Milford was awarded $200,000 of this money for the local ongoing bike path project. This was for the section of the project along Westbrook Road between Macopin and Ridge Roads. The township plan was to widen the road to create two bike lanes, resurface the road, install new curbing and improve drainage. Township money was also to be appropriated for this section to be done in 2010.

It was reported in state press releases at the time that the grants were in connection with a goal of eventually having 1,000 miles of dedicated bikeways throughout New Jersey.

In 1999 township officials believed they had the perfect route only to discover it would cost $3.1 million due to state requirements. Though the state would pay the total cost, council members at the time felt uneasy spending that amount of money on a bicycle path.

As a result, they decided to scale back the project in mileage and cost. The revised project, which would take up to three years, would cost $1.7 million.

The state encouraged the township officials to reconsider so the council authorized an application for almost $3.17 over the $500,000 secured earlier in 1999.

In 2005 West Milford received $25,000 from the NJDEP to improve a section of the bike path winding through Bubbling Springs Park and it was planned to level off the area with gravel rather than pave it. A section completed before this was the part of Ridge Road from Union Valley Road to Cahill Cross Road.

Gargano recalled that wetland problems had stopped the completion of the original bike route. He remembered that delays in the township going ahead with work and spending the grant money almost cost the township the grant. Officials quickly moved to use the money on a part of the project underway at Ridge Road to avoid that from happening. EC Chair Steve Sangle reported that investigation of existing files and maps is underway and if grant money is available to complete the path an application with available information can be filed immediately. The EC would like to see the center section of what was the originally proposed route completed, possibly with an alternate route from the original one.