A bicycle and pedestrian planning workshop will be held Thursday, Feb. 28, in Conference Rooms 1 and 2 of the Portage County Annex Building, 1462 Strongs Ave., Stevens Point.
An opening session will be held at 10 a.m., followed by various workshops throughout the day and into the evening.
“It’s a daylong workshop to get general information in the evening with the public session, but during the day we’re going to have very specific topics; pedestrians, access points around the university, safe routes to school, all-purpose cycling,” said Sarah Wallace, an associate planner for the county who has been working on the bicycle and pedestrian plan project.
The multi-session workshop will be a chance for the project’s consultants to solicit local knowledge and information about bicycling and walking in the area. The workshop will include group discussions targeted at specific topics related to bicycling and walking, as well as opportunities for general discussions and input about bicycling and walking.
Though the 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. evening session is called the public session, Wallace said the public is encouraged to attend any of the sessions throughout the day.
“We’re encouraging anybody to attend as many of the sessions as they would like,” Wallace said. “We understand a lot of people work during the day, so the public session in the evening is more generalized, and anything that has been discussed during the day as a topic is something that we will continue to discuss during the public session.”
Workshop participants may also pop in and out of the workshop as they have time available.
Wallace requested participants RSVP to WallaceS@co.portage.wi.us or 715-346-1334 to help plan for the workshops, but it is not required. There is no fee to attend.
For those that would like to participate but cannot attend the workshop, Wallace recommends using the interactive “Where do you walk and ride?” map on the project’s blog at portagecobikepedplan.wordpress.com.
“It allows for people to go on there, and it’s just kind of a blank map with general information and you can click and add routes. ‘This is my commute route to work;’ ‘This is my recreational route;’ ‘These are my other routes.’ You can add different destinations. ‘These are where I want to go,’ or ‘I have issues with this intersection’… you can put as much information in there as possible.”
She said information about the workshop is also posted on the blog.
“In the future we’re going to have online questionnaires, and we’ll always have journal updates and information about the ongoing process on the blog,” she said. “So we’re just trying to get the word out there as much as possible so people can participate.”
Wallace said the city’s first urban bicycle plan was done in 1996-97 and that the county’s 2006 comprehensive plan identified multi-modal (pedestrian, bicycle, car, bus) transportation as a priority. She said the county has focused on rural areas in recent years, but that interest in bicycle and pedestrian accommodations has grown from a variety of sectors, including tourism and business sectors.
“As we continue to grow and do stuff, how do we develop things so that people can choose to walk and bike, so that we’re not necessarily auto dependent?” she said. “It’s a pretty broad spectrum of things, but it ends up being healthy, active communities, and businesses and people want to move into areas that have those types of things.”
The county’s Planning and Zoning Department wrote a grant application to the State Department of Transportation (DOT), which was officially awarded in October 2010. After a delay the $140,000 in grant funds were released by the DOT, and county staff reviewed five consulting firms for the project, selecting Toole Design Group out of Madison in the fall of 2012.
Since then the consultants and county staff have done background work and formed steering committees of interested people in the rural and urban areas of the county. The project’s kickoff meeting was held Tuesday, Jan. 29.
The consultant is scheduled to complete work on the plan in Feb. 2014, producing two plans – one urban and rural – that will work in concert with each other, as well as safe routes to school analysis and recommendations for each school in the county.
“The idea is as part of these plans we’ll have very specific implementation plan with cost estimates and suggested other funding mechanisms,” said Wallace. “We can all work together to find ways to have these (bicycle and pedestrian improvements) jointly happen with other projects.”