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County approves path plan

Government: The 20-year project would include about 158 miles of bikeways in the SCV

Posted: March 4, 2012 9:57 p.m.
Updated: March 4, 2012 9:57 p.m.
 

Spurred by a failing economy, rising gas prices and a need to inspire coach potatoes, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has endorsed a 20-year master bicycle plan to change the car-dependent lifestyle of county residents.

The Los Angeles County Bicycle Master Plan promises to build 832 miles of new bikeways throughout the county — a greater distance than the entire length of California — at a cost of $331 million.

Some 158 of those miles would be in the Santa Clarita Valley, considerably enlarging the 3.3 miles of bikeways currently maintained by the county.

The most expanded stretches of new bikeways would include:

- More than 24 miles along Sierra Highway from just south of Ryan’s Lane to the Pearblossom Highway

- Close to 20 miles along Bouquet Canyon Road from Hob Court to Elizabeth Lake Road

- 17.5 miles of bikeway along Soledad Canyon Road from Mammoth Lane to Sierra Highway

- More than 13 miles in Castaic from Sloan Canyon Road to Weldon Canyon Road

- An additional 23 miles from Sloan Canyon Road to Visa Point Lane along Lake Hughes Road

The buzz word for architects of the master bike plan is “interconnected.”

Drafters held several public hearings throughout the county, including a meeting at William S. Hart Park last summer, in an effort to devise a network of connected bikeways that would, ideally, enable any bicyclist to get anywhere inside the county on a designated bikeway.

“The plan proposes a vision for a diverse regional system of interconnected bicycle corridors, support facilities and programs to make bicycling more practical and desirable to a broader range of people in the county,” public works officials explained in their letter to supervisors.

Bike lane planners had an easier time laying out bikeways in the Santa Clarita Valley than in many other Los Angeles County areas because of the extensive well-defined network already here. The city of Santa Clarita has more than 40 miles of off-street bike paths.

Most of the bike paths designed under the county plan are on-street bikeways.

Three of five supervisors voted to pass the Bicycle Master Plan, which outlines funding until the 2031-32 fiscal year.
Building the on-street bikeways, which share the road with motorists, will cost $255 million.  The remaining $76 million is earmarked for construction of off-street bikeways.

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich abstained from voting after a lengthy debate during last week’s meeting about details in funding the plan.

“The money is being suggested to come from our road fund, correct?” he asked public works employees.
He was told “yes.”

“Are we current on our road construction with the funding that we currently have?” he asked.
“No” was the answer.

“How much are we behind in road construction in dollar amount?” Antonovich asked.
“In your district,” the public works official said, referring to District 5, which includes the Santa Clarita Valley, “We’ve got probably a backlog of over $100 million worth of road rehab projects.”

Alternative travel
One of the key strategic goals of the master bike plan is to get more people using bikes instead of cars.

Officials with the county’s Department of Public Works explained their strategy as “enhancing residents’ ability to utilize a bicycle as a viable means of transportation.”

They told supervisors that a “more bicycle-friendly county” will help resolve several problems including traffic congestion, air quality, climate change, public health and livability.

“In recent years, we’ve been experiencing high gasoline prices accompanied by an economic downtown,” public works official Mary Reyes told supervisors.

“There’s significant prevalence of chronic disease in our communities attributed to inactivity,” she said. “These factors have led to movements throughout California and the nation to encourage alternate modes of transportation and to work towards developing complete streets that address the needs of all roadway users.”

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