Thursday, October 1, 2009

Village of Bellevue Seeks Public Input on Walking, Bicycling and Safe Routes to School Plan

The Village of Bellevue will host two upcoming meetings pertaining to the potential adoption of a new Pedestrian, Bicycle and Safe Routes to School Plan.

A Public Informational Meeting will be held at the Village Hall (3100 Eaton Road) Wednesday, October 14, 2009 from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. During this time, Village staff will provide an overview of the draft plan and respond to questions and comments.

A formal Public Hearing will be held during the regularly scheduled meeting of the Village Board on Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 6:31pm also at Village Hall. The purpose of this hearing is to obtain public input on the Village’s proposal to adopt a Pedestrian, Bicycle and Safe Routes to School Plan as an element of the Village’s Comprehensive Plan. At the hearing, all interested persons will have an opportunity to be heard, and action will be considered.

The proposed Pedestrian, Bicycle and Safe Routes to School Plan can be found on the Village’s web site at http://www.villageofbellevue.org/. A copy may also be reviewed in the Village Office (2828 Allouez Avenue.) More information about this request is available at the Village Offices during normal business hours, 7:30 am to 4:30 PM, Monday through Friday.

Planning Project Background
The planning process started as a goal to make walking routes to school safer. “Once the planning process began however, we realized the entire community needs to be safer and more accessible for pedestrians and bicyclists” states Joel Gregozeski, Director of Leisure Services and Safe Routes to School Task Force Coordinator for the Village. So the village made it a priority to develop a long range plan to achieve this goal. The benefits of improved biking and walking span from improved health and safety for school children, to economic development and a cleaner environment. These benefits are why the Village Board and the Task Force found that a long range plan for walking and biking in Bellevue was important. The village’s Pedestrian, Bicycle & Safe Routes Task Force is leading the planning process with technical support by Brown County Health Department, Brown County Planning Department and Peter Flucke of WE BIKE, etc. The village presently has limited pedestrian and bicycle facilities, lacks connectivity and is challenged by a variety of barriers. The most obvious barriers are Interstate 43 and State Highway 172 which effectively divide the community into three distinct sections. Natural barriers also exist, such as steep ravines and stream crossings. According to Gregozeski “Walking or biking to school, parks, retail centers, the workplace, for example, is difficult due to a lack of safe pedestrian and bicycle facilities."

The process of developing the Pedestrian, Bicycle & Safe Routes Plan began in January. A community wide survey was completed by the St. Norbert Survey Center. Results of the survey indicated that many residents wanted to see additional sidewalks and most residents wanted to see more recreational trails. In additional to the community survey, the Task Force hosted a Public Workshop in May to gather input directly from interested residents.
The long range Pedestrian, Bicycle & Safe Routes Plan will establish a vision for the future of walking and biking in Bellevue along with specific recommendations for achieving that vision. While the long range plan cannot promise to immediately solve the challenges that the village is facing, some of the plan’s recommendations will be short range in nature. Other plan recommendations may be more complex and could take over twenty years before they are realized.

Work Completed to Date
The planning process is still in its final stages; however several successes have occurred as a result of the planning process. The Village has received a grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to place sidewalks and bicycle lanes along a significant portion of Verlin Road. In addition, a state grant was awarded to upgrade a section of Manitowoc Road to include sidewalk and bicycle lanes. Bill Balke, Director of Public Works for the Village states “The completion of these projects provide a means to safely connect residents from the northwest side of Bellevue to parks, schools, government offices, shopping, health care facilities, and the East Side YMCA. This will be significant for our community’s overall connectivity.”