Effort aims to give employees safe way to bicycle to work
By Shelby Sebens, December 5, 2014, The Columbian
The Port of Vancouver is embarking on a trail project that will not only make bicycle riders’ commute to the industrial area safer but could also lead to more connectivity and recreational opportunities for the community.
Keystone Contracting will begin work early next year on a multi-use trail from the city of Vancouver’s bike path at the intersection of Mill Plain Boulevard, St. Francis Lane and Lower River Road to the port’s administration building at 3103 N.W. Lower River Road.
“It’s really been a goal of ours to provide a safe way for folks to get to their jobs,” said Katy Brooks, the port’s director of business development. “It’s a great way to get folks off the road.”
Now, the port’s 2,300 workers have two options: They can drive. Or, they can take the bus, which stops near the end of the existing bike path, then walk or cycle along a road that is frequented by large trucks and heavy traffic.
The effort also goes hand-in-hand with the state’s Commute Trip Reduction law, which requires local governments in urban areas to reduce the number of people driving alone to work.
Port commissioners awarded a $328,389 contract to Keystone, the lowest bidder among 11, at their meeting last month. A $289,600 Federal Highway Administration grant will cover most of the construction cost.
Port officials said the remaining 20 percent will come from port funds.
The new segment of the trail is expected to be done by June 1. Work will include site clearing, grading, asphalt paving, concrete construction, block retaining wall construction, landscaping and irrigation.
But that’s just the beginning, port officials said.
The port already has funding within the same grant to design the next segment of the trail, which would connect the administration building to an existing path at Farwest Steel. Brooks said the goal is to extend a separate path all the way to the Vancouver Lake Flushing Channel, where it would connect to the city’s existing trail between Vancouver Lake and Frenchman’s Bar parks.
“The Vancouver Lake area, I think, is a really nice kind of resource for the city and I don’t think a lot of people realize how close it is,” said Jennifer Campos, senior planner for the city of Vancouver. “We’ve always tried to figure out how we can make a better connection for people that just want to go out to the lake and Frenchman’s Bar.”
She added the city hears from a lot of people who want to take families out there but are hesitant to ride their bikes.
“They’re concerned about their safety and what’s the best way to get out there,” she added.
Clark County has more than 40 miles of trails, and plans for 240 more miles of trails. Vancouver’s 2004 Transportation System Plan also identified a need for the trail connection through the port.
“It is definitely something that we have in a plan and it is an important and critical piece of that overall connection,” Campos said.
The port could be well-positioned to move the overall trail project along quickly, Brooks said.
The port owns 2,217 acres, with more than 600 available for future development, Communications Manager Abbi Russell said. Usually grant money comes for trail projects like this as land is developed, but officials are hoping an aggressive approach will get the trail built faster.
“We’re hoping that we get to build this a lot sooner than this (port land) will be developed,” Brooks said. “It’s not 40 different landowners you have to negotiate with, it’s us.”