Friday, March 29, 2013

"This is not a biking community," say critics as sparks fly at Jeff Parish bicycle plan meeting

Attendees at the last public meeting held to discuss a proposed network of bicycle paths and routes covering Jefferson Parish listen to Matt Rufo describe the plan at the main branch of the East Bank Regional Library, 3-28-2013.

  A rough draft of a plan to develop a network of bicycle paths, trails and bike lanes sharing streets with motorized traffic in Jefferson Parish, drew fire last night (3-28-13) from a small group of citizens claiming that public budgets were too tight to spend money on bicycling and that there was scant public notice that the plan was being developed.
     The meeting's presenter, Matt Rufo, senior planner with GRC Inc., was briefly hammered with questions about funding for the project, if the bike lanes required the taking of private property, why the meetings were not publicized and other concerns.  GRC Inc., is one of five firms hired by the Regional Planning Commission, (RPC) to develop the plan.  The Jefferson Parish Council is paying 20% of the project's cost.
     Rufo, along with several members of the audience who supported the plan, tried to explain that two meetings publicized in the Times-Picayune newspaper had been held in January and that the parish should encourage the use of bicycles for transportation, but the critics were not swayed, saying "this is not a biking community," and referring to the rough draft as, "a vision of government and not of the people."
     Rufo said opposition to the plan should be taken up with parish council members.  While the planning firms were hired by the RPC who funded 80% of the project, the decision to implement any or all of the proposed plan will be made by the parish council.
     Shortly after calls from the audience to return to discussion of the plan itself, the four citizens left the meeting, the most vocal of the four refusing to give her name to a reporter.
     The meeting, held at the East Bank Regional Library, was the last of four public meetings held this month to gather comments on the proposed parish-wide bike route network.  The five firms working on the project will finish it and take it to the Jefferson Parish Council for approval this summer.
     The plan, if approved, will provide a template for individual projects to eventually link up and form a connected bicycle transportation system in the sprawling parish.  No money is allocated in the proposed plan.  Decisions on funding any of the suggested routes, paths or facilities, must be approved at a later date, but funding is more likely from state or federal sources if projects can be shown to be part of a larger cohesive plan, planners say. 
     Rufo said that maps showing the proposed system will be posted on the project's web site,

No comments: