Madison looks to build new new north-side bike path – Isthmus

Madison has been certified as a platinum-level “bicycle-friendly community” by the League of American Bicyclists for nearly a decade. But north-side bikers still mostly have to travel on city streets next to vehicle traffic. A new north side path connecting to the east side’s bike path network could change that.

The city’s Traffic Engineering Division wants to apply for $920,000 from a Federal Highway Administration program that would go toward planning, design and community engagement. The path would seek to connect the Demetral Path with Westport Road, according to assistant director of traffic engineering Renee Callaway, though “options would be explored that might be slightly different than that based on community feedback.” The Transportation Commission will consider authorizing the grant application June 12.

“This project would address a current gap in the system,” says Callaway. A new path would “provide safe pedestrian and bicycle connections within the north side, but also connect to the current shared-use path system that connects to east Madison and into downtown.”

In 2013, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, an alder at the time, proposed the conversion of Sherman Avenue from a four-lane road into a two-lane road with bike lanes — that’s currently the only option for most north-side bikers to make it downtown other than going through Maple Bluff. The new path would provide another route for bikers who don’t feel safe among sometimes fast-moving vehicles.

“The north side currently has many local streets that are great for walking and biking as well as a path system in Warner Park. However, the bicycle connections into the east side and downtown are not physically separated from motor vehicles,” says Callaway.

The resolution the Transportation Commission will consider says a new north-side shared-use path connecting to the wider bike network “would promote safety and connectivity throughout the region.” 

It would also set the stage for an eventual future connection to the North Mendota Trail currently being built by Dane County, according to Callaway. That trail will connect Governor Nelson State Park to Yahara Heights County Park near Cherokee Marsh once completed. The north side path is also intended to connect to the city’s north-south bus rapid transit route, which is currently in the planning stage and expected to launch in 2028.

While the funds won’t go toward construction, Callaway says the city choosing the route and completing preliminary design and engineering would make it competitive for additional state and federal grants that would fund building costs. The FHA’s program, called the Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program, allows applicants to apply for a planning and design grant and a separate construction grant.

Madison’s share of the project costs would be 20% — about $184,000 — for planning and design.

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