The local Healthy Eating Active Living Committee, a function AWARE NCK, held an open house event on Wednesday evening at Kettle in Beloit to unveil initial plans for sidewalks, bicycle paths and trails in and around the City of Beloit. City Manager Jason Rabe said about $25,000 was utilized by the HEAL Committee thanks to a grant from the Kansas Health Foundation through the Mitchell County Regional Medical Foundation.
There are key corridors and intersections in Beloit that are considered dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists. Those conditions coupled with the ever-increasing need for healthy living and outdoor activity suggests that Beloit has a responsibility to make substantial improvements to pedestrian transportation infrastructure.
Sidewalks are generally the most widespread improvement proposed in the plan. Crosswalk stripe painting is also a proposed improvement at many intersections. Any pedestrian safety features at intersections, beyond crosswalk stripes, will have to be addressed according to site specific conditions. All new sidewalks should meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The plan illustrated both the existing Safe Routes to School sidewalk improvements and the proposed sidewalk improvements in the master plan. Because the center of Beloit consists of well distributed and maintained sidewalks, almost all of the proposed improvements in their plan connect the edges of Beloti to its well-developed core.
While the Safe Routes to School plan is intended to connect students to schools. This plan connects citizens to commercial districts, parks and other common destination. Each proposed sidewalk was highlighted in the documents on display at the meeting and are available to view at the Beloit City Office.
Two roads that pose the greatest danger to pedestrian and bicycle traffic run along the corridors of Highways 24 and 14 through the city. Residents around Country Club Drive have no pedestrian access to the rest of Beloit. NCK Tech is also disconnected from the rest of the city in terms of pedestrian pathways as well. None of the intersections on Highway 24 have any pedestrian safety features.
The largest concerns along Highway 14 as it travels through town exist along 8th Street. Particularly, the section of four lane road with no sidewalks or lighted crossings. Plans in that area of town propose improved pedestrian connectivity to MCHHS, Beloit Elementary, Hilltop Retirement Community and Ray’s Apple Market.
Sidewalks proposed in the plan will need to be designed and engineered to fit the specific conditions of each site. Steep slopes between intersections and at intersections will create design challenges, especially in regard to meeting ADA standards and ramp design.
Trail improvements proposed would create loops around the perimeter of the city. The trail system would ultimately link all Beloit residents to park settings and natural corridors. The loop would be accessible to all of the community to provide a desirable alternative to automobile transportation. As the State of Kansas continues to fund trail development, an exciting potential trail connection could be implemented between Beloit and Waconda Lake.
Bicycle path improvements proposed for street corridors include Hersey, Walnut, Main, Mill, Independence, 8th, South Brooklyn and Asherville Road along with Hwy. 24. This improvement would consist of painted bicycle lanes on the shoulder or edge of the streets.
Another improvement for bicycles would be arrows or “sharrows” painted on shared auto/bicycle lanes. These are proposed along major connections and high use streets.
A special condition exists on Hersey Street between 3rd and 8th Streets where a steep hill causes bicyclists to move more slowly going uphill. A bicycle lane is perceived to be needed on the north bearing hillside, but a shared lane would suffice on the south bearing downhill slope where a bicyclist could general ride as fast as vehicles.
Attendees of the open house were asked to complete an online survey which you can view and take at www.surveymonkey.com/r/masterbikeandpedplan. The plans laid out in the presentation are proposals only. The online survey helps determine what areas people feel are most in need of improvements and additions. People are encouraged to take the online survey to create the clearest and most complete picture of what should be priorities for the future projects.