The Grant…

In fall of 2010, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation awarded a $141,000 grant from the Transportation Enhancement (TE) Planning Program to Portage County to undertake long-range planning related to non-vehicular travel (i.e. bicycle and pedestrian activity). The scope of work for the project is quite extensive, including:

  • an analysis of existing policies and practices regarding bicycle and pedestrian facilities;
  • an inventory and analysis of these facilities;
  • public participation to understand how people currently use, and might like to use these facilities;
  • recommendations for how a logical, useful network of facilities might evolve;
  • creation of basic design guidelines for how facilities should be constructed to make for a uniform future network;
  • identification of policies to assist in moving bicycle/pedestrian awareness and accommodation forward.

Also included in the facility analysis is a review of school access to be used in future Safe Routes to School planning.

A national search was conducted to find a consultant team with the right set of skills to perform the work. Ultimately, Toole Design Group and SAA Design Group, both from Madison, WI were selected. Finally, in September 2012, all of the final contracting steps were completed and work could officially begin. Link here for further information on the TE program. http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/localgov/aid/te.htm

The intent of the Portage County Combined Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning project is to work with Portage County residents, municipalities, businesses and various organizations to understand generally how people move around the urban and rural areas of the County in their daily lives, and more specifically, to look at how we might improve their ability to accomplish these movements on foot or on bike. Fitness, health, economic development, work life, recreation, and tourism all benefit from giving people options to make their connections.

Throughout this planning process, two unique areas of Portage County will be analyzed and separate plans created.

The “Urban Area”, which is generally defined as the City of Stevens Point, Villages of Plover, Whiting, and Park Ridge, along with portions of the adjacent Towns of Hull, Plover, Stockton, Linwood, and Carson. A Bicycle/Pedestrian Plan was created for this Area in the late 1990’s, and with a majority of the issues identified in that Plan addressed or discussed, an update is in order. A “Steering Committee”, made up of municipal officials, residents, and local business representatives will be formed to oversee drafting of the Plan document. The final Plan document will ideally be adopted by the Urban Area communities and serve as a joint vision and work plan.

The “Rural Area” includes all seventeen of the Portage County Towns and six rural villages (Almond, Amherst, Amherst Junction, Nelsonville, Junction City, Rosholt). No planning of this type or scale, has been undertaken for the unincorporated portion of Portage County. A “Steering Committee”, made up of municipal officials, residents, and local business representatives will be formed to oversee the drafting of the Plan document. The Rural Area Bicycle/Pedestrian Plan will ultimately be adopted by the Portage County Board, and apply to the unincorporated areas of the County. Rural villages will be included in discussions to allow them to help establish likely points of connection between their municipalities and possible hiking/biking routes.

It is intended that these Plans become a primary planning tool for each individual jurisdiction and Portage County, to establish orderly development of both pedestrian and bicycle modes of transportation. We look for the Plans to identify a consistent network of facilities across jurisdictional boundaries, which will help build partnerships between public agencies, non-profits, businesses and the public, as well as provide other benefits of positive economic impact, tourism, and promotion of healthier lifestyles.

Portage County Planning and Zoning Department staff will be working directly with the consultant team to accomplish this ambitious project. We anticipate it will take approximately 18 months from beginning to end. The planning process will start in October 2012. We will use this blog as a portal to our information “clearinghouse” for the project, and are in the process of gathering various pieces of information. Please check back to this site frequently for updated information.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this planning project, please contact Sarah Wallace at 715-346-1334 or wallaces@co.portage.wi.us.

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