Note: This article is cross-posted from Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia affiliate group Bike Chester County.
On Thursday evening, March 23rd, over 70 people attended Bike Chester County’s first public meeting to hear about bicycle and pedestrian projects in Chester County.
Greg Krykewycz, Associate Director of Transportation, and Sarah Moran, Transportation Planner, at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) kicked-off the meeting to discuss regional on-street bike facilities and low-stress network project.
Greg explained to guests that the current problem with bike lanes and facilities on suburban streets is the Bicycle Occupancy Permit. The Bicycle Occupancy Permit is a PennDOT policy applicable to state roads; “before any municipality can allow the installation of a bike lane on a state road, PennDOT requires the municipality to assume the maintenance and liability responsibility for the bike lane portion of a state road by signing on to this BOP.”
The BOP is typically a non-starter for bike lanes because 1) municipalities don’t usually have the funds to maintain bike lanes and 2) most fear “liability”. You can learn more about the BOP here.
However, Greg, Sarah and Louis Belmonte, PennDOT’s Assistant Executive Director at PennDOT, BCC’s later presenter, are all working together with the Bike Lanes on Suburban Roads Working Group to encourage PennDOT Central Office to eliminate the BOP by conducting a non-BOP pilot program on select suburban roads through PennDOT District 6-0, which includes two roads in Chester County.
As outlined in their presentation, the Post-BOP Pilot program is meant to establish installation and maintenance costs for future projects. Once the post-BOP Pilot program is complete, Sarah Moran hopes her project of low-stress bicycle mapping will make it easy to identify roads perfect for bike lanes.
Sarah’s project is to develop a bicycle level of traffic stress map for Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties. The map can be used as a resource for bicyclists traveling in the area, but more importantly the map will be used as a resource for developing bike plans and identifying priorities projects that will connect other low-stress roads to each other.
“The goal is not to put a bike lane on every suburban road.” Sarah said. “The goal is to identify the roads that have the lowest level of traffic stress (LTS 1 or LTS 2), find the gaps between the low-stress roads (roads labeled a LTS higher than 2) and then add bike lanes on roads in those gaps to connect the low stress network together.”
Louis Belmonte, Assistant District Executive at PennDOT District 6-0, discussed the more technical side of implementing bike lanes onto Chester County roads. Before the Bike Lanes on Suburban Roads Working Group, not much consideration has gone into implementing bike lanes on suburban roads. Lou explained that there has been a “line item” (funding was set aside) on the Transportation Improvements Program (TIP) fund to create bike lanes, but due to the BOP, not many municipalities have used the money except to create wider shoulders on roads. Those funds were used to create pavement marking plans for seven road throughout Bucks, Chester, Montgomery and Delaware counties.
The line item was replenished with $500,000 during summer 2016 for future bike lane development on state roads. The goal now is to begin utilizing some of these funds once the post-BOP pilot program is in place.
Brian Styche, Transportation Services Director at the Chester County Planning Commission, finished out the meeting with discussing upcoming trail projects in Chester County. The first project is the Schuylkill River Trail Phase 2, which will extend the current terminus of the trail at Parkerford to the newly created pedestrian bridge on the US 422 bridge across the Schuylkill River. The County is currently in negotiations with Norfolk Southern on land acquisition. Brian said that construction was likely to begin in late 2018.
The other major trails discussed by Brian were the Devault Line, the Brandywine Trail and Phase 4a of the Chester Valley Trail, which will extend the trail from Exton Main Street to the Oaklands Corporate Center, and its extension into Downingtown. The construction of Phase 4a should begin later this year. The Chester Valley Trail’s extension into Downingtown is still undergoing property negotiations with PennDOT and Norfolk Southern. However, the study for the extension is almost completed. A more in depth discussion of the extension will be discussed at the next public meeting for the Chester Valley Trail scheduled for April or May.