Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Letter to FHWA evaluation of RATS, October 22, 2008

Dear Sirs:

WalkBikeBerks is overall very pleased with the opportunity to voice public comments regarding the transportation process in Berks County. Our mission is to make walking and bicycling practical, convenient, and safe transportation and recreation options for all citizens and visitors of Berks County, Pennsylvania.

We envision an intermodal transportation system that enriches quality of life and strengthens the community by providing mobility for all, regardless of motor vehicle ownership, age or ability. Regional planning that includes bicycle and pedestrian transportation spurs community interaction while protecting the open spaces and unique characteristics of this area for future generations.Our positive partnerships with area government entities and other organizations perpetuate on‐going bicycle and pedestrian improvements through engineering, education, encouragement and enforcement programs.

We deeply appreciate that Michael Golembieski and Lori Lencheski joined us at a special meeting of our members (open to the public) to discuss the Berks County Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation Plan. They were kind and thorough, and we feel as if we gain tremendously from their conversation with us. We also deeply appreciate that Glen Knoblauch attended a Concerned Citizens of Exeter Township meeting to discuss the history of the Berks County Greenway, Park and Recreation Plan. That time was also very informative and provided us with a good understanding of the process that has been devoted to creating these visions for our county.

Our organization represents members throughout the county, including business men and women, municipal leadership, educators, media, trail and bicycle enthusiasts, children, elderly, disabled residents -- virtually all ages in a diverse ensemble of the public who are working together to create better walking and biking in our transportation system.

We promote Complete Streets and Safe Routes to School as our two primary campaigns. To that goal, we must request that more is done in Berks County to create Complete Streets so that children (and all users) have Safe Routes to School (and work, worship, play). We request that the PennDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Strike-Off Letter SOL 432-0702 be made public and transparent -- that every single municipality be fully trained and educated about this Pennsylvania State-Wide Complete Streets Mandate. Currently, it is our finding that most municipal leaders are not aware of this document, so infrastructure projects are being completed without adhering to this mandate. Furthermore, we request that specific projects receiving Federal and State funding be required to accommodate all users -- that bicycles, pedestrians, and mass transit be implemented into every construction project.

We are disappointed that the construction projects on Route 422 do not accommodate pedestrian and bicycle safety in such a way that invites all (even the most vulnerable) users to cross the widening roadway that divides so many communities in Berks County. Projects in Exeter, Sinking Spring, Douglassville and other communities will now create a greater divide, reducing our access in our own home towns, forcing us into our cars for trips less than 1/2 mile from our homes.

We are, however, very pleased with the new PennDOT Smart Transportation Initiative. We are hopeful that the new program and the funding of $60 Million in Pennsylvania will provide the incentive to our county and local governments to address the needs of all modes of transportation and prioritize pedestrian safety above all other modes. We are deeply grateful to Mr. Alan Piper and Mr. Michael Golembieski for working so hard to address our questions in a timely and professional manner. Both men have been open and friendly to us in our effort to represent the public. We simply hope for greater involvement in the years to come.

There are some specific projects which must be mentioned:
Route 10 from Flying Hills to Penske is a danger zone for pedestrians and cyclists.
Old Route 22 in Hamburg must be retrofit with pedestrian and bicycle accommodations.
Route 422 is our economic corridor in Berks County -- but is dividing communities and weakening our quality of life rather than improving it.
Secondary roads, such as 47th Street in Exeter Township could serve as pedestrian and bicycle corridors to alleviate the congestion and demands of 422 if sidewalks and bicycle access were constructed during (rather than later) major TIP and TIF funded projects.
Bicycle racks on mass transit, and throughout community business districts, will promote cycling as a primary mode of transportation.
We hope to see a Greenway Coordinator hired for our county so that the Greenway Plan may be implemented as it is intended.

Thank you for your time and attention to our requests today.
Michele D. Barrett, President
PO Box 6795
Wyomissing, PA 19610

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