Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Courant to Rell: Build more bike trails

In a Sunday editorial, the Hartford Courant called upon Gov. Rell to release some previously authorized funds so planned greenway trails can be built.
In the past month, three bicyclists have been badly injured — two critically — in collisions with cars. These awful accidents underscore the need to separate, wherever possible, the places where people drive cars from the places where they ride bikes.


Few investments address as many problems at once as multi-use trails. Trails provide a means to combat obesity, climate change and dependence on foreign oil. They enhance quality of life, reduce transportation costs and spur economic development (witness the bike shops, restaurants and guest houses along the Cape Cod bike trails).

In 2007, the legislature made $12 million available over two years to complete the East Coast Greenway, the main east-west multi-use path through the state, and to support other trails. But the economy swooned, and the authorization was cut back to $2 million.

Advocates are asking Gov. M. Jodi Rell to release about $1.4 million to build segments in Manchester-Bolton, Farmington and along the shoreline. The governor should release the money. Yes, these are difficult fiscal times. But if the state has to shelve some major infrastructure construction, it should focus on meaningful smaller projects. This is one, and could be a legacy project for the governor. Completion of the Bolton-Manchester segment will link eastern Connecticut to Hartford for bicycle commuters was well as recreation cyclists.

Releasing the funds now would put the state in position to receive federal funds. The Obama administration is pushing alternatives to driving, from high-speed rail to bicycling. There may be as much as $2 billion available for bike/ped projects when the new transportation bill is authorized. We should keep pushing until the state is crisscrossed with bike trails.
This is an investment in our state that will absolutely pay itself back many times over, and will improve the quality of life considerably for many people.

A great example of a successful greenway is the Air Line Rail Trail. Back in 2005, I made a documentary showing the beauty and history of the former railroad line that was converted to a linear park:

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