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Opinions mixed on bike path

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston officials are planning to build a bike path along Kanawha Boulevard from Magic Island to Patrick Street, and residents who live nearby are wondering if the project will be a success.

John Phillips has lived at his home along Kanawha Boulevard near its intersection with Delaware Avenue since the late 1980s. He called the plan, which would place a bike path along the river side of Kanawha Boulevard, "a stupid waste of money."

"There isn't a steady stream of bicycles along that part of the boulevard," Phillips said. "It's stupid to spend that kind of money on something for a few bikes."

The city has hired TRC Engineers to design a two-lane bike path along Kanawha Boulevard. The price tag for the design is about $280,000.

The city plans to spend about $1.7 million in federal funds on the project. The money originally was allocated to turn the old railroad trestle over the Kanawha River into a bike and pedestrian bridge.

However, that project is estimated to cost about $20 million. 

City leaders recognize that all four lanes of Kanawha Boulevard would have to be narrowed from 12 to 10.5 feet to accommodate the bike path, City Manager David Molgaard said during a previous interview.

The grass median between the westbound and eastbound lanes would be eliminated, he said.

Phillips doesn't like the idea of narrowing the lanes to 10.5 feet to make room for the bike path. He believes this will cause traffic congestion along the road, especially during rush hour in the evening and morning.

"Traffic on the boulevard in the morning is pretty thick," he said.

Phillips said the city should give the money back to the federal government.

"They have that money and they just don't want to give it back," he said.

But Tim White, 61, sees things differently. He said the project is worthwhile.

White has lived in his home on Kanawha Boulevard West since 2006.

"I think we need more bike paths in Charleston," he said.

White is a bicycler himself. But he is not comfortable riding in the city because he would be forced to use the streets most of the time, he said.

"I'm not an expert biker," he said with a smile after he was finished walking his dog along Kanawha Boulevard near Magic Island.

White said he would use the new bike path once it is completed.

"And I think more people would use the bike path if they build it," White said.

White is not so sure he likes the proposal to eliminate the grass median between the two lanes because it adds a lot aesthetically to the boulevard.

Gail McMillen, 65, has lived in her family's Kanawha Boulevard home since 1971. McMillen does not believe building a bike path along Kanawha Boulevard is a good idea.

She is concerned about what effect narrowing the lanes will have on her parking space along Kanawha Boulevard.

"That's my main problem with the plan," she said. "That's a big issue."

Molgaard said the plan is to eliminate as few parking spaces as possible.

The design firm will have to deal with what he called "choke points" where the lanes would shift, Molgaard said. One such "choke point" could be where the train trestle spans Kanawha Boulevard.

The firm could add parking spaces to a large triangular space about halfway between Magic Island and Patrick Street to make up for any spots lost along the boulevard.

Contact writer Paul Fallon at paul.fallon@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817. Follow him at www.twitter.com/PaulBFallon.

 


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