The city’s new bicycle and pedestrian concept plan lays out $6.2 million worth of projects to be built in phases over the next 10 years and beyond.
“This is a foot in the right direction as far as making Anniston bike friendly,” said Mayor Vaughn Stewart before the council voted. “You start with infrastructure, you adopt a plan, and you seek grants for the improvements.”
Initial priorities in the plan, which should be undertaken within the next 3 to 3 1/2 years, include enhancing access to the Coldwater Mountain bike trail network from the city’s downtown area with such measures as adding bike lanes along Alabama 202 and Noble Street to 4th Street.
The initial phase also includes construction of the southernmost mile of the Chief Ladiga Trail extension, from the multi-modal transportation center at 4th Street to 15th Street, along with trailheads at the multi-modal center and at Grove and 13th streets.
Less intensive measures in this early phase include creating shared-use roadways with road markings and signs throughout the downtown area, along with amenities such as bike racks.
The second phase of the program, to be implemented in years four through six, includes construction of the northern end of the Chief Ladiga Trail from Mike Tucker Park down to the U.S. 431 bridges and a connector bike path from the bridge to LaGarde Park, as well as a trailhead and other amenities in McClellan.
In years seven through nine, projects such as a Pipe Street connector to Coldwater Mountain, the construction of a bike trail from Blue Mountain rail depot to Norwood Park, and connecting the remaining 2.67 miles of the Chief Ladiga Trail will be undertaken.
Future projects would include a bike path from the Ladiga Trail to Summerall Gate Road, a 3.3-mile Blue Mountain rail trail that extends to Bynum/Leatherwood Road, a 4-mile rail trail from the multi-modal center to the Anniston Airport, and a 2.16-mile West Anniston Bikeway from Norwood Park to West 10th Street.
Jack Plunk, a principal planner with the East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission who administers the Metropolitan Planning Organization, said he was “really proud of Anniston because it’s a big, ambitious plan.”
Plunk called the plan “very progressive and very future-oriented.”
The Metropolitan Planning Organization funded 80 percent of the $27,000 study, which Plunk said will fit right into the MPO’s Calhoun area bicycle-pedestrian plan approved last year.
Plunk, who has been working with Anniston’s Chief Ladiga Trail Task Force, said the 10-plus-year timeline is a little long for him, but he understands the city is trying to spread the cost over several fiscal years. He also noted attempts to incorporate the time it might take to acquire the right of way for the Ladiga Trail from the many property owners who live along the abandoned railroad line.
City Planner Toby Bennington said greater priority will be placed on projects that are most economically feasible and will have the greatest impact to downtown and other parts of the city.
“With the adoption of the plan, it will give city the opportunity with each year as it updates its capital improvement plan to identify projects to work with MPO to plug transportation funding into,” Bennington said.
Bennington said there is flexibility in the plan to move more quickly or reprioritize certain projects if funds or property becomes available or other factors change.
“It’s an opportunity,” Bennington said. “It’s not just about transportation…It’s about community connection for economic development and quality of life.”
Now that the city has a plan for bicycle-related infrastructure, the council will soon begin discussing bicycle safety measures, Stewart said. “It’s all along path to make Anniston the bike capital of, I would say Alabama, but possibly the South,” he said.
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.