Meeting presents potential bike, pedestrian routes

By CHRISTINE STEPHENSON
cstephenson@dcherald.com

JASPER — Dubois County may be getting more options for bike and pedestrian routes in the next year or so.

The first public hearing regarding the creation of a countywide Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan was held Thursday evening at the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center. Ron Taylor, president of Taylor Siefker Williams Design Group, presented preliminary information to a small group consisting of local cyclists and Jasper city officials.

Funded by the Indiana State Department of Health, the master plan could include several projects, from adding more bike lanes on existing roads to building more shared-use paths similar to the Jasper Riverwalk.

“We’re not evaluating the routes,” Taylor said. “We’re looking at the countywide connectivity between different communities and different specific destinations within the county.”

Based on a recent public engagement survey for county residents, 64% said they consider themselves walkers, but only 28% considered the county “walkable.” Additionally, 64% considered themselves casual or recreational riders, but only 13% considered the county “bike-friendly.”

Taylor explained that there are three potential methods to expand routes in the county, the first being to simply create bike lanes on existing highway systems. This would be the least costly, as it would only include painting the lane and installing signage, but would likely only benefit more experienced cyclists.

The second method would be to create bike and pedestrian routes on existing roads with speed limits of 45 miles per hour or slower, which would also be relatively affordable and be accessible to less experienced riders.

The third method would be to build new shared-use paths, which are non-motorized and separated from the road. So far, there are six potential shared-use routes to be considered: a county fairgrounds connection, a Ferdinand State Forest connection, a Jasper-Ireland connection, a Patoka Lake connection, a Jasper-Huntingburg connection and a Huntingburg-Ferdinand connection.

The public meeting also featured a blank map where attendees could mark other potential route options they were interested in.

“We welcome you to sort of put on your bicycle and pedestrian planning hats and show us what we should be thinking about,” Taylor told the group.

Taylor said the two main challenges as of right now are the county topography and deciding which routes would be the most beneficial, since not all can be funded. Dubois County is 435 square miles, or 21 miles wide and 20 miles long. If a route was built all the way north-south or east-west, it would likely cost around $60 million, Taylor said.

“This study can’t be about just building trails between every community, because if we do that, the price tag is so big that it will be difficult to ever achieve that,” he said.

Thursday’s meeting was the first public hearing concerning the master plan. The next will be June 17, where a draft master plan will be presented. Ideally, the final plan will be adopted by July, Taylor said.

More information about the plan can be found here. The digital maps of the six potential shared-use paths will be uploaded to the website within the next few days, Taylor said.




More on DuboisCountyHerald.com