When Dana Ratkovich travels by bike on roads in and around Maricopa County, he tends to cover a lot of ground and sees broken glass that needs to be cleaned up or areas that need travel lanes.
So when he was driving along East McDowell Road in east Mesa Thursday, Feb. 5, and saw signs about a county transportation-plan meeting, he decided to stop by to suggest changes, he said.
Easels had been set up around a room at Desert Hills Baptist Church, 8326 E. McDowell Road. Computers on a desk had screens open to interactive maps.
Each of the easels represented a section of the transportation plan, Denise Lacey, systems planning branch manager for Maricopa County Department of Transportation, said. They included “Traffic Safety,” “Maintenance,” “Bicycle/Pedestrian,” “Air Quality/Dirt Road Paving,” “Connectivity” and “Traffic Congestion.” Ms. Lacey encouraged people who attended the open-house-style event to put stickers with comments on the boards.
Four of the comments Mr. Ratkovich put up for the theme “Bicycle/Pedestrian” were “Finish bike lane to Saguaro Lake from Usery,” “Bike lane from Saguaro to Beeline,” “Bike lane on McDowell, Power to Ellsworth” and “Occasionally sweep Bush Hwy – broken glass from tubing.”
“Because I use it all the time,” he said of bike lanes.
Under the theme “Maintenance,” he wrote stickers for “Rubberize Bush Hwy from Power Road to Usery” and “Drainage issue: Bush Hwy eastbound Phon d Sutton and Coon Bluff.” Coon Bluff and Phon D Sutton are recreation sites in the Tonto National Forest in the lower Salt River area, according to www.fs.usda.gov.
MCDOT is responsible for planning, designing, constructing and maintaining roadways within the county’s unincorporated areas and is updating a transportation system plan that was adopted in 2007. The plan is a blueprint to 2035 guiding long-range transportation project priorities that address the future needs of Maricopa County residents, according to a press release.
Officials are conducting a series of 13 public meetings throughout the county in February and March to provide the public with the opportunity to give their input on potential transportation improvement projects, according to the release.
In addition to the open house held in Mesa, one has been scheduled for 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25, in the Queen Creek Town Hall, 22350 S. Ellsworth Road. For a list of additional meeting dates, locations and information, visit the interactive website at http://www.mcdot.maricopa.gov/tsp. MCDOT is accepting comments until April 30, according to a window that popped up at the site.
Alternative modes of transportation – such as bicycles, walking and connectivity to regional buses, light rail and airplanes – are part of the plan to be updated, Ms. Lacey, project manager for the plan update, said.
She said MCDOT’s section on bicycles and pedestrians is primarily concerned with those attached to the roadways.
“So the bike lanes on the roadway, the sidewalks adjacent to the roadway; what we’re doing is looking for input on where do we have gaps in those services,” she said. “Some of our very rural areas don’t have bike lanes and pedestrian sidewalks, obviously. But in those areas where there are gaps or it’s in bad repair, whatever, we would like to know that. And even maybe in some of those rural areas where we think we might need that as we move into the future would be a good idea to know too,” she said.
“While Maricopa County does not focus on rail, air or bus, we will be looking at the regional plans that are out there that make recommendations into the future. We will have a summary of information on those different alternative modes and we will recommend that Maricopa County stay on top of what those modes will be as they move toward the future and if there is need for us to help accommodate some of those alternative modes in our roadway design as we move to the future, we would recommend that we do so,” she said.
As part of the plan update, MCDOT is asking cities and towns to provide a list of their highest-importance roadways, Ms. Lacey said.
“And then we be looking at those to see if there is potential for partnering. In some instances, there will not be potential for partnering, but Maricopa County does like to partner with our jurisdictional agencies. It results in a good roadway and plan for all of us involved,” she said. “So if there is potential to cost-share – we have a portion of the road, they have a portion of the road – we are definitely looking at those opportunities.”
“Just like the subject areas we have here, where we are asking the public for their feedback, we’re asking the agencies – the partnering agencies – for their feedback as well to say, ‘what’s important to you now, what’s important to you in your 30-year General Plan, what’s important for connectivity in the Valley?’ – all those pieces,” Ron Coleman, community relations officer for MCDOT, said at the open house.