Local trans-city bike trail proposed
Shared-use path would allow cyclists, pedestrians to travel from Newark to Wilmington
Published: Monday, October 31, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 04:11
A Newark to Wilmington shared-use bicycle pathway was among 19 trails recently proposed by state legislators for construction in a $7 million project.
Susan Moerschel, planning chief of the state's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, said the path can be utilized by both bicyclists and pedestrians, and will include as few road crossings as possible to increase public safety.
"The mission of the trail is to link communities and community services," Moerschel said.
According to the proposed plan, Gov. Jack Markell's primary goal is to re-establish Delaware as one of the 10 most bicycle-friendly states. Delaware is currently ranked 18th in the country by the League of American Bicyclists.
The trail's shared-use designation is significant because many state trails are designed for only one activity, Moerschel said.
Moerschel said Delaware has 506 miles of trail, but only 89 miles are shared-use and are exclusively located in state parks. She also said the paved path must be at least eight feet wide in order for bikers and pedestrians to simultaneously use the trail.
Senior Alex Szela, president of the cycling team at the university, said members are pleased with the proposal.
"I can see more students getting interested in cycling," Szela said. "Biking in general is on the rise."
Szela said the team has 60 members, several of whom are interested in the trail because it will allow them to practice regardless of the season. Practice on the trail would be safer because there is no motor-vehicle traffic.
Junior George Weiler, a member of the cycling team and off-road biking enthusiast, said the trail will benefit the environment because bicycling is cost effective and promotes clean-air transportation.
Weiler, who would use the trail to visit his parents in Wilmington, said the pathway would offer a more direct route there than the route he currently bikes on.
"For me, it's all pros," Weiler said. "For others, the money might be better spent somewhere else."
Moerschel said there are many factors which must be considered before construction begins. After it's designed, the trail must receive positive feedback from the public as well as acquire a financial sponsor before construction can begin. Public workshops will be held to allow community members to share ideas about the pathway with the planning committee.
Moerschel said there are several routes the path could potentially follow, but that a decision has yet to be made.
"We're wrestling with the best alignment ideas for the path," she said.
Charlie Emerson, Newark's director of parks and recreation, said any funds needed for the trans-city pathway would be state-funded.
"The city of Newark doesn't have a dime for this project," Emerson said.
Emerson, who has attended both meetings concerning the pathway, said the trail may have to be assembled in pieces if necessary.
"So far, people have laid out a map and drew lines on it," he said. "There's a lot that needs to be done."