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Reaction focuses on new options for West Avenue bicycle paths - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Reaction focuses on new options for West Avenue bicycle paths

Advisory Council's Fasy says, 'It's not that easy but it's ... Doable'

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Posted: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 1:00 am

City Business Administrator Michael Dattilo said the New Jersey Department of Transportation report on biking opportunites in Ocean City contains “a lot of good information on the various options.”

He said the steering committee would review the report and have the opportunity to ask the DOT questions. A public meeting will be held with the DOT to glean public input.

Dattilo said he was “interested” in a few lane configuration options on West Avenue.

“The intent from the administration has really never deviated from finding an achievable, affordable, safe route the length of the island. If West Avenue in some stretches can fulfill that, we’re interested in that, or any other options that can work,” Dattilo said.

Drew Fasy of the Advisory Council on Physical Fitness and Sports said he didn’t thoroughly read the report, but noted the overall gist was positive.

“They laid out two options, one for West Avenue as a viable option, one for the rail trail as a viable option in the south end. I saw that they’re recommending crossing Ninth Street with a HAWK signal at Aldridge, which makes a lot of sense to me,” Fasy said. “I know everybody is caught up in the south end, but my opinion is north of Ninth Street is a critical piece of this. Getting across Ninth Street and continuing north to me is as important to this study as anything else.”

He said the report’s plans for a dedicated two-way bicycle lane on West Avenue was similar to one he presented publicly over a year ago.

“I think West Avenue from a transportation perspective is a great option,” Fasy said.

Fasy said the buffer lanes on West Avenue “make sense from a safety perspective.”

Fasy’s proposal consists of a two-way bicycle lane on the west side of West Avenue.

“It’s not as easy or cheap to do as some have said. It’s not just paint. You’re changing the configuration of a heavily-used 70-foot-wide road,” Fasy said. “It’s not that easy, but it’s certainly doable. I’ve always thought that has a really good potential there.”

Fasy said supporters of the rail trail cited the need to provide a safe bicycle venue to limit the interaction between bikers and cars along West Avenue. He said the rail trail gives access to wetlands, a natural and appealing area.

“It would be a beautiful trail, just like the Corson’s Inlet trail is a beautiful trail,” Fasy said.

He said the proposal for the bicycle boulevard is only in the concept phase.

“I think there’s been a lot of misinformation out there and misconception that this report is going to lead us to filing for a permit to create a rail trail tomorrow and it’s not the case and it’s never been the case. We’re in the concept stage. I think very few of us have a good enough understanding of all of the issues to make a determination of what the best concept is, whether the rail trail or West Avenue or another” Fasy said.

The DOT is slated to hold a public meeting to discuss the report. The exact time and date of that meeting has yet to be announced.

Friends of the Wetlands President Irene Lorenzon said the report gives two options for biking in the South End.

“I like the West Avenue option because it also helps with calming traffic which is good for pedestrians because crossing traffic in the South End is dangerous with the four lanes,” Lorenzon said.

The city administration and proponents of a wetlands rail trail labeled the report a “feasibility study,” while the DOT labeled it an “action plan” in correspondence from 2010.

Lorenzon said the report verifies what Friends of the Wetlands have claimed; the proposed rail trail was in environmentally sensitive wetlands and permitting for any development would be necessary.

“It’s not a feasibility study, but it verifies many things Friends of the Wetlands have said, that it is in the wetlands in spite of proponents insisting it wasn’t in the wetlands,” Lorenzon said. “It’s good news for us because it confirms everything we’ve been saying.”

Lorenzon said the project would require CAFRA permits, which the applicant would have to show there are no non-wetlands alternatives and the report shows there are non-wetlands alternatives with the West Avenue bicycle lanes.

“There’s no reason to go in and destroy wetlands and spend $5 million, which according to the report that looks like what it would cost,” Lorenzon said.

Lorenzon said the proponents’ stated goal has been a safe biking venue in the South End and the report suggests options that wouldn’t destroy wetlands.

“I think the report should settle this matter and no more money should be wasted on the idea of going in and destroying wetland habitat for something that would only be a complement,” Lorenzon said.

Lorenzon supports bike path on West Avenue for pedestrians crossing South End to go to the beach, which she said could be done with little cost.

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