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  • JOHN SKIPPER
  • Thu February 27 2014
  • Posted Feb 27, 2014

MASON CITY | A bike trail on East State Street.

A similar one on Sixth Street Southwest.

Another one connecting Winnebago Way with retailers on Highway 122 using the edge of the K-Mart parking lot.

All of these and more are part of an ambitious, extensive master plan for a bicycle/pedestrian trail system through Mason City, put together by RDG Planning and Design team from Des Moines.

The Mason City Council approved a $1.8 million investment Tuesday night to get the project started.

The first phase has an estimated cost of $2.1 million over five years, according to Steven Van Steenhuyse, director of city development services.

The council choseto fund most of it in the first year to get the project off the ground. The plan does not provide a cost estimate for the entire 15 years.

Mayor Eric Bookmeyer calls it "a transformational plan that spans the socio-economic demographics of the entire community."

Angela Determan, community program manager for Blue Zones in Mason City, said the plan has many advantages.

"It ties in with the city's Complete Streets initiative -- making our streets as complete as possible for all possible modes of transportation. So it's not just about trails," she said.

Having a bike and pedestrian system plays into the Blue Zones goal of having a healthier community, Determan said. "It will nudge people to be healthier. The closer the proximity of the trails, the more likely people will use them."

The plan projects that by 2020, 20 percent of students will walk to school and 2.4 percent of residents will bike to work, using 10 bike and pedestrian routes.

RDG's 232-pagereport to the city, complete with maps, charts and photos, can be found in its entirety on the city's website, www.masoncity.net.

It describes Mason City as "a compact city, where most trips are under 3 miles and most slopes are gentle, a city with a network of long, pleasant, lightly-traveled streets that take you conveniently to most of its features.

"It is a plains city still defined by water -- the Winnebago River, a scenic urban creek system through the center of town, and lakes with public access and even beaches -- Mason City is made for biking and walking."

RDG consultants rode bicycles on every street in Mason City, taking hundreds of photos as they researched the possibilities for a bike and pedestrian trail system.

The plan has six goals:

• To increase the number of people who use walking and biking for transportation and recreation.

•To improve bicycle and pedestrian access to key community destinations.

•To improve access to the city's pathway system by providing connecting links from neighborhoods to trails.

•To use walking and bicycling as part of an effort to make Mason City more sustainable at three levels: global, community and individual.

•To increase safety for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.

•To capitalize on the economic development benefits of a destination-based bicycle transportation system.

"Mason City hascompleted major projects that are both important recreational assets and the basis for a broad bicycle transportation system," the report says. "It has the core of an excellent trail system, with the Willow Creek, Winnebago River and East Park."

The report says the citywide trail system can be accomplished by using streets, drainage ways, parks and open spaces, disused rights-of-way and flood buyout properties.

The report features many illustrations of possible bike lanes.

For instance, the East-West Bikeway North route shows a potential bike lane on First Avenue Northwest as well as the one on the edge of the K-Mart parking lot and on East State Street.

The East-West Bikeway South route shows proposed bike lanes on Sixth Street Southwest and an improved path leading to a trail overpass near Highway 122 west of Monroe Avenue.

Birch Drive isa popular route connecting East Park and the NIACC trail but the consultants point out the convergence of pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists hampers its level of service to everyone.

They recommend a shared space concept providing a separate path for cyclists and pedestrians within the existing roadway and a slow-moving lane for one-way automobile traffic.

Yet another recommendation is for an on-street buffered cycle track on the Kentucky Avenue bridge over the Winnebago River, connecting Birch Driver to the East Park trails.

The report was put together have about a year of research, including public input sessions in all four quadrants of the city.

RDG consultants also worked with an advisory committee of city officials and citizens that included Craig Binnebose, Gary Christiansen, Craig Clark, Matt Curtis, Angie Determan, Kelly Hansen, Jim Miller, Brian Pauly, Mark Rahm, Tricia Sandahl, Steven Schurtz, Bill Stangler, Brent Trout and Steven Van Steenhuyse.


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