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Charleston bike lane designer awaits council vote

Courtesy illustration
The proposed twin bike lanes along Kanawha Boulevard would run beside the pedestrian walkway and be separated from traffic lanes by a four-foot-wide green space. All four traffic lanes will be maintained.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston could finally get its first official bike lanes by the end of the year, City Manager David Molgaard said, if City Council members OK a design contract next week.

"We're going to recommend a contract with TRC Engineers for up to $280,000 to provide planning, design and contract administration services related to the Kanawha Trestle walk and bikeway system," Molgaard said.

Its name notwithstanding, the project involves dual bike lines -- one in each direction -- along the river side of Kanawha Boulevard, from Magic Island to Patrick Street, Molgaard said.

Consultants working on a new comprehensive plan for the city unveiled the bike lane proposal last September during an Imagine Charleston open house at the Culture Center.

Council members agreed in October to redirect $2.2 million of city and federal funds to the project. The money was originally earmarked for the Kanawha Trestle Trail plan to convert the CSX train trestle for hiking and biking, which engineers said could cost $15 million or more.

An ad hoc committee unanimously chose TRC among eight firms that responded to a request for qualifications, Molgaard said. Unlike most other firms, TRC came up with a novel approach.

"My initial thought, and most of the other firms agreed, was to keep the curbs [between the Boulevard and the walkway] and keep the light fixtures in place, which put the bike lanes near to the traffic. We were thinking you'd need some kind of bollard system to provide separation from the traffic," Molgaard said.

"One of the things I think the selection committee liked about the system from TRC was the provision for a buffer between the bike lanes and vehicular lanes. They felt we could move the light poles north, move the bike lanes next to the pedestrian walkway and add a little green space, some plantings."

TRC's plan may cost more, Molgaard said, but he thinks it's a better solution.

"The plan contemplates maintaining four lanes of vehicular traffic but would involve removing the medians, shifting lanes of traffic to the north and narrowing the lanes." Traffic lanes that now vary from 11 to 13 feet wide would be trimmed to about 10.5 feet, he said.

"The goal would be to maintain as much on-street parking as possible. We may have to relocate some parking."

The basic concept already has the blessing of state highways officials, who approved the reassignment of the funds the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., earmarked for the trestle project.

"I think we're looking at a budget of $2.2 million," Molgaard said, which may not be enough to finish the job given TRC's conceptual design.

"It could be we may not get all the way to Patrick Street. That will be fleshed out in this process," he said. "We'll plan the whole project and see what we can do with value engineering."

Design could take about four months, and construction another five months, Molgaard said, "so potentially 10, 11 months from now" it could be done.

Reach Jim Balow at balow@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.

 


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