Thursday, July 12 2012 @ 06:39 PM UTC
Contributed by: B' Spokes
http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/15381/lack-of-connections-visibility-hurt-icc-trail/Less than a year old, the Intercounty Connector Trail offers a new way to get across Montgomery County by bike. However, a circuitous route, a lack of connections to surrounding areas, and sections with poor visibility all hurt its potential.
Not surprisingly, area bicyclists were unhappy with the decision. "Why do designers think cyclists should have to go the long way, but cars need a direct route?" asked WashCycle.
[B' Spokes: It may be of interest on how we got to this point.
The ICC Was A Fast Tracked Project
The problem the government looks at the length of the planning process as an unnecessary expense (this is evident in the new Transportation Bill and the "streamlining" of the timing of the environmental review process. When it should be looking at the quality of the results. It should be intuitive but there are studies that show that the more you involve the public the better the outcome of the project. Does this take longer? Sure but it gets better results which is a lot better then one under used road putting a strain on our road budget for years to come.
Defend, defend and defend
While no planning agency says this is their policy it has become very apparent (in Maryland at least) that this is the state's policy. I say that because by the time a project comes up for public comment it is too late to go back and make changes as that will take more design time and there is no budget for that. So the public's only option is to accept or reject the plan as given. It is my opinion one of the mistakes the cycling advocates made was to request minor tweaks to the original design of the ICC rather then just saying "This design is unacceptable so it has to be scraped in it's entirety." Which may sound a bit extreme but certainly less extreme then the state's assertion "a highway is not an environmental problem, but a bike path is an environmental problem." So my advice for future advocacy efforts, no more mister nice guy, if the project design is unacceptable, it is unacceptable, end of story even if it can be easily fixed. Our policy should be to demand that they fix the plan first or we come out against the plan. (Just to note some local planners are easier to work with then the state, so use your discretion when working with local projects. I will also point out the irony of it's harder to work with the state with their bigger budgets and with more year end left over funds then with locals with tighter budgets because I will assert there is a greater need to be responsive to the public at the local level then at the state level. )
Stick your fingers in your ears and hum real loud syndrome and the impact on MBPAC
While this is directed at the previous administration [Ehrlich (Governor) and Flanagan (Secretary of Transportation)] I remain concerned vestiges of this attitude remain within MDOT. There is nothing about the current observations of the ICC and its trail that were not known before the project ever got approved. So why did they go ahead with it anyway? I can't answer that but I can point to an issue that hindered getting a full and complete trail as envisioned by master plans.
While the concept of having members from different state agencies on Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (MBPAC) sounds like a good one, the gotcha comes in can a state employee vote against the policy of the Governor? With that in mind MBPAC intended to send a message to MDOT that this convoluted mix of on and off trail route + indirect circuitous routing of a bike "trail" was not a full and complete trail as envisioned by master plans. But that got nixed very effectively by the state by threatening to fire any state employee who voted in support of trying to fix this so called "trail" that we got. So instead of MDOT getting just one vote it got 9 votes by this tactic. (I will also note that when the vote took place few general public members of MBPAC were present.)
With any planning just on paper one group can say one thing and another group can say the opposite but here we are with things mostly in place and guess what, Ehrlich and Flanagan got it wrong and used excessive force in trying to ignore public/advisory committee's input. Perhaps if MBPAC amended its bylaws so members could vote the way they feel best and still be secure in their jobs to avoid this from happening again would be a good place to start. ]