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MASON CITY | Mason City residents got a first look Monday night at proposed plans to increase infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians citywide.

Dubbed Activate Mason City, the bicycle and pedestrian master plan is part of Mason City's Blue Zones initiative. It was unveiled during an open house at the public library's Mason City room.

"We want to make it easier to bike and walk while promoting a healthier lifestyle," said development services director Steven Van Steenhuyse.

In a recent survey, 50 percent of Mason City residents said they'd like to bike or walk more often, if safe or clearly-defined routes were available.

After partnering with Des Moines-based RDG Planning and Design this spring and receiving community input, gaps and barriers in existing trail and sidewalk systems have been identified, and improvements recommended.

The plan includes 17 numbered, easy-to-follow trail components, the majority of which are on-street with marked lanes or shared spaces with minimal disruption to parking, Van Steenhuyse said.

Some routes are already existing, while others may only need lanes painted or signs added. A few will be long-term projects.

The following low-cost routes will be a focus during 2014-2018:

  • East-West Bikeway: North of Fourth – Lark Avenue to NIACC.
  • Trolley Trail to Tow.n Bikway – Trolley Trail at city limits to Central Park.
  • East-West Bikeway: South of Fourth – Indianhead Retail Centers to NIACC.
  • Quincy-Adams Bicycle Boulevard – Holcim Ballfields to Willow Creek Trail.
  • North Crosstown – Taft Avenue to Illinois Avenue, with possible extension to Mason City High School.
  • Pennsylvania Bicycle Boulevard – 17th Street dog park area to Eighth Street Southeast.
  • Trolley Trail East – Taft Avenue to Illinois Avenue.
  • Rhode Island-Virginia Bicycle Boulevard – Highland Park Golf Course to Trolley Trail.
  • Taft Avenue Bikeway – 12th Street North to planned regional trail to Thornton.
  • Culture Trail – Northbridge to Fifth-River Heights.

During that time period, special attention would be given to the west half of Willow Creek and acquiring rights for the Union Pacific Highline, a trail that would use railroad right-of-way from 18th St. N.E. to 19th St. S.E.

It would serve the dog park area, the Lime Creek Trailhead, Gooch Park, the Senior Center and East Park.

In addition to the Union Pacific Highline, the Birch Drive Trail, which will connect Illinois Avenue to Iowa 122 and serve East Park and NIACC, will be another long-term project.

The goal is to implement the full plan by 2030.

After the meeting, close to 30 attendees browsed the room, lined with oversize master plan graphics.

Marty Walsh, who walks and bikes for commuting and recreation, said he was pleased with the plans.

"I think it's very good and covered the community's concerns," he said. "I hope people in town will take possession of it, because there's lots of opportunities for engagement and fundraising."

Randy Lewis, who walks and bikes for recreation, said he liked the designated bike lanes on roadways.

"I think more education is needed for bikers and motorists," he said. "This plan might help with changing stereotypes and attitudes."

After the system is completed, RDG Principal Marty Shukert said he'd like to see Mason City's bike commuter rate at 4 percent, the same as Minneapolis.

That translates to 9,000 bike and 22,000 pedestrian trips annually, Shukert estimated, with 2.25 million fewer miles driven. Each year, Mason City residents would collectively save $1 million in fuel and lose 64,300 pounds, roughly three pounds per person.

The final plan will be submitted to the Mason City Council during its Jan. 21 meeting. Costs have not been finalized, but grants are potentially available to offset some of the costs.

To view the draft plan or submit comments, visit www.activatemasoncity.com. Comments can also be submitted to 641-421-3626 or mailed to the Development Services Department, 10 First St. N.W., Mason City, IA 50401.

A presentation given during the open house will be rebroadcast throughout the week on Mediacom Cable's Government Access Channel 4 (digital channel 117-2). It will also be available at www.masoncity.net.


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