Once the Big Four Bridge ramp is complete in November, Jeffersonville officials envision pedestrians and bicyclists continuing on paths throughout the city.
While it might not be implemented by the time the bridge ramp is finished, a plan has been devised to improve access for pedestrians and bicyclists in Jeffersonville. Despite the plan’s infancy, downtown business owners see big things down the road.
“I just think this is wonderful, not only for all of us local people ... but it’ll be a great tourist draw,” said Linda Williams, owner of the Old Bridge Inn at the corner of Pearl and Chestnut streets, where pedestrians will enter the city from the Big Four Bridge ramp. “Tourism, especially heritage tourism — Jeffersonville just fits into that so well for the bed and breakfast [and] for the shop keepers here. We need new sidewalks, that’s improvement number one ... having bike lanes, that’s another thing for people that like to take their bikes when they travel.”
A citywide comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian plan that was presented to the public last week now rests with the city’s plan commission for a recommendation. It will then head to the city council for ultimate plan approval and to be included in the city’s comprehensive plan.
Officials have identified 30 miles of trails and improvements, but they carry a big price tag: $32 million.
“Obviously, we don’t have $32 million,” Jeffersonville Planning Director Shane Corbin said.
Corbin explained that the overall cost is somewhat misleading, because it includes a cycle track recommended for Utica Pike with an estimated cost of about $11.7 million. And if the city does pursue a project with a high cost, it will seek funding to help pay for the improvements.
The initial phases of the bicycle and pedestrian plan, which includes about 13 miles of lanes, sidewalks or pathways, can be done for around $400,000, Corbin said.
WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND?
As planners developed the transportation plan, a priority list was also developed.
The purpose of the study and developing the plan was to “create an understanding of the prevalence of waking and biking in the city and increase the number of people walking and biking for everyday transportation purposes. Provide safe walking and biking for all ages and experience levels ... [and] create connections to destinations within Jeffersonville, as well as to surrounding communities.”
Matt Gullo, architect with Kovert Hawkins who helped to develop the plans, said treatments could include anything from new sidewalks, intersection upgrades and bike lanes to multi-use trails.
He added while the advisory committee created a priority list, the city will likely have its own priority list. But those first routes chosen by the planners include plans that are easily implemented and at a low cost.
“The plan will concentrate on four main corridors within the community for bicycle route improvement,” according to the executive summary.
In addition to the study and subsequent recommendations to improve each of the corridors, all were given a current rating on accessibility by foot or on a bike using a letter grade. An A-B rating was accessible for all riders, a C+ was usable for casual riders and anything below the C+ rating was passable for experts only.
“Most of the routes studied do not currently meet the needs of casual riders to make connections to the destination spots that the public identified as wanting to reach,” according to the summary.
The Spring Street/Hamburg Pike corridor, which starts at Riverside Drive and heads north to Coopers Lane, was one of the four corridors in which the plan will initially focus. The corridor received an A-B rating to near Spring Hill Elementary, then a F to Coopers Lane. The recommendation offered was to install bike lanes on the road to Dutch Lane and then a shared-use path out to Coopers Lane.
The second corridor identified was the 10th Street corridor that will start at Spring Street and head northeast to River City Park Road. The corridor received an F rating from Spring and 10th streets to about Reeds Lane, where the grade changed to an A-B out to Allison Lane. It was recommended that a shared-use path be installed from 10th and Spring to Reeds Lane, a cycle track be installed from Reeds Lane to Allison Lane and then a shared-use path be extended to Vissing Park.
A third corridor runs from Eighth and Spring streets out to Middle Road. Eighth Street received alternating grades, with the two largest stretches from Perrin Lane to Allison Lane receiving an A-B rating, and from about Presidential Place to Port Road received a C+ or below. Improvements identified were to create a bike lane along the corridor.
The fourth and final corridor is Market Street and Utica Pike, which runs from Spring Street to Utica. From Spring Street to Jeffboat, Market Street received a C+ rating, but north of Jeffboat, the road received an F rating. Improvements include creating a shared roadway on Market Street, and once the road turns into Utica Pike, the recommendation is to install a cycle track along with road improvements.
Corbin explained a cycle track is an exclusive bicycle facility along a roadway that is a separated path from the on-street infrastructure of a conventional bike lane.
A plan devised for Chestnut Street —from Big Four Station to Ewing Lane — calls for installation of a bicycle boulevard. Corbin said a bicycle boulevard includes medians in the roadway that allow bicycles to pass through, but would divert vehicle traffic by forcing them to turn right, minimizing the amount of cars on a road.
Corbin said the walkability study will be concentrated downtown.
The area studied was the area from Mulberry Street to the west, Riverside Drive to the south, Meigs Avenue to the east and 10th Street to the north.
For the bulk of the walkability study, the area was rated as substandard. Court Avenue to Riverside Drive and Mulberry Street to Meigs Avenue were defined as walkable, while the rest of downtown, especially the 10th Street corridor, was deemed substandard.
The bulk of the pedestrian improvements identified call for improved road crossings at several intersections and adding buffer strips and sidewalks along the roads.
THE IMPACT OF TRAFFIC
Part of the reason for making the changes to the city’s bicycle and pedestrian access is to be able to handle the expected increase in traffic once the Big Four Bridge is opened.
A recent count taken of the number of people accessing the Louisville side of the Big Four Bridge ramp during a nine-day period in June totaled 45,000 pedestrians and 4,500 bicyclists.
Perkfections Cafe Owner Carole Vissing said she is preparing her business for when the bridge ramp does open. Plans for Perkfections include creating an expanded patio at the corner of Maple and Spring streets, which is also going to be a trial for the city’s planning department. When the patio is installed, the plan is add more bike racks near the coffee shop and cafe.
“We’re going to have a ton of bicyclers down here,” she said. “We’re going to be upping our staff,” she added in anticipation of the increased traffic coming into downtown. “It’s going to be a different group of people, especially if the city goes forward with adding all the bike racks down here. It will attract more [bicyclists].”
Vissing said she also plans to reinstate the cafe’s liquor license that the business let lapse a couple of years ago because the demand did not exist.
While the pedestrian and bicycle bridge traffic may be a boost to the local lodging market, Williams, of the Old Bridge Inn, said the real impact is going to be felt by retail and restaurants downtown. She added that it may draw more attention to the inn’s website or have visitors keep them in mind for next time they want to stay in town.
“It’s not about us ... it’s the merchants. We’ve got all the historic buildings renovated, and now we hope to revitalize the business end of it,” she said.
But Williams added she will continue to appeal to visitors who want to bring their bicycles with them.
“My proximity to Louisville has helped me to do that, but now that Jeffersonville’s getting bike lanes it’s like, ‘Hey, big sister Jeffersonville’s got bike lanes, too,’” Williams said.
THE IMPACT TO TRAFFIC
New lanes for bicyclists mean convenience, connectivity and comfort.
Clarksville Schwinn Owner Bob Peters said once the bike lanes and additional facilities are in place, it will be tremendous for those who like to ride or commute using bicycles.
“A lot of families will feel safe riding their bikes,” he said. “We have a lot of people that have bikes that live in this area that won’t ride because there aren’t bike lanes and paths.”
Peters said some even travel out of state to ride on trails that don’t have cars with which to contend.
“It would be so much more convenient to have them locally,” he said. “It’s a shame we weren’t able to get started on this 25 years ago,” he said.