By fall, the West Virginia Department of Transportation will have completed a statewide bicycle route study, incorporating public input gathered during a series of eight meetings, including one held Monday evening in Lewisburg.

Funded through a Transportation and Community System Preservation (TCSP) grant, the study is intended to identify and finalize a bicycle route system that will resemble the state’s highway system.

Perry J. Keller, who is with the DOT’s Program Planning and Administration Division, explained to a gathering of around 20 people at Lewisburg City Hall that a 2009 proposal specified 10 bicycle routes, including one following U.S. 219 and another along the U.S. 60 corridor. That proposal provided a starting point for the study that is now nearing completion.

“We’ve got some stuff on paper,” Keller noted.

“We would like to get your input now. I need to know we are on the right track.”

He said the more comments that are received on the proposals currently on the table, the more likely it is that some of the DOT’s resources will be allocated to the bike route system.

Asked by one of the people in the audience if any funding source can be tapped in the near future for the routes, Keller responded, “There are probably no direct projects that will roll right out of this plan.”

He said if the public comments indicate a desire for bicycle routes, however, when roadways are upgraded, the bike routes would “come into consideration,” through such additions as wider shoulders and signs that would indicate the comfort level of the road for bicyclists.

Emphasizing the TCSP grant does not include funds for implementing the recommendations that emerge from the planning process, Keller cautioned, “We can’t do everything everywhere.”

He added that the public input would help DOT prioritize areas for development of bicycle routes when funding does become available.

Right now, West Virginia has a lot of roadway needs, Keller pointed out.

“That’s where we’re going to continue to spend our money, unless we hear different from the public,” he said.

Another local bicycle enthusiast protested the state’s ban on bicycles on Interstate highways, particularly as it applies to a stretch of I-64 between White Sulphur Springs and the Jerry’s Run interchange in Virginia.

He said there is no nearby alternate route for bicyclists.

Lewisburg Mayor John Manchester explained the situation, saying, “The Interstate ‘ate’ a secondary road that was available to all transportation.”

Keller urged those interested in the issue to include the information in their written comments on the plan.

Written comments will be accepted until June 30.

Mail those comments to Robert Pennington, P.E., Director, Program Planning and Administration Division, West Virginia Department of Transportation, Capital Complex Building Five, 8th Floor, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. East, Charleston, W.Va. 25305-0430.

Comments can also be made via e-mail to Keller at Perry.J.Keller@wv.gov.

For additional information, including maps of the routes under consideration, visit www.transportation.wv.gov/highways/programplanning/planning/statewide/Pages/StatewideBicycleConnectivityPlan.aspx.

— E-mail: talvey@register-herald.com

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