MPO aims to improve area’s recreational trails

Posted: November 10, 2012

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Safety and accessibility for city pedestrians and bicyclists were the principal concerns raised by several residents during a Winchester-Frederick County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) meeting Thursday night.

About a dozen local residents who attended the open house-style meeting in Jim Barnett Park’s War Memorial Building were able to speak with representatives from Oregon-based transportation consultant firm Kittleson & Associates Inc. — which has offices in Virginia and throughout the nation — about improvements to the city’s bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

Karen Taylor, transportation program manager with the MPO, said Thursday’s meeting was part of an analysis of Winchester’s offerings in this area. “From that, recommendations will come out of the study.”

The MPO, which also hosted a meeting in August on the subject, has received more than 100 comments on a dedicated website regarding the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians.

Taylor said the MPO hopes to receive comments from as many stakeholders as possible before Kittleson makes its recommendations.

Alek Pochowski, with Kittleson, said the analysis will help the MPO to place priorities on projects based on the needs of the community, since the organization has limited funds.

Jane Troup and her husband Dan Troup have lived near Meadow Branch Avenue on Winchester’s west side since 1990.

“[Meadow Branch] doesn’t have any sidewalks, and so that’s always been kind of an issue for us, and we also bike ride a lot,” Jane Troup said. “That’s why we’re here, because we live in an area without sidewalks.”

Dan Troup said bicycle lanes and walking trails have been added since he and his wife moved to the city, but he feels that more can be done.

“Things have certainly improved, but they have a long way to go,” he said, adding that he and his wife try to ride or walk recreationally several times a week.

Troy Willoughby, a Frederick County resident who works in the city, said he often finds Winchester too congested to safely ride his bicycle.

“They need to add more bike lanes [and] bike trails; really, off the road would obviously be optimal,” he said. “They need to link more common places where people walk and bike by trails.

“[The city] has a great park system and there’s Old Town, Shenandoah University, the Winchester hospital, but you can’t bike to any of those places from any other one. It’s almost impossible unless you want to bike in the middle of traffic.”

Several in attendance also said they would like to see the Winchester Green Circle trail completed.

That project would provide safe facilities and accommodations for bicyclists and pedestrians and would connect major destinations for citizens and tourists in and around Winchester, according to www.winchestergreencircle.com.

The comments and recommendations the MPO receives will be factored into the organization’s planning process, Taylor said.

“We have a work program dedicated to bike and [pedestrian needs] throughout the city and the urbanized areas of Frederick County,” she said. “That will stay in there and we try to implement different recommendations each year.”

Members of the public can offer suggestions to the MPO by visiting www.winfredmpo.organd clicking the link under the “Winchester Frederick County MPO Bike-Ped Plan.”

— Contact Matt Armstrong at marmstrong@winchesterstar.com