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Active transpiration Plan efforts continue

The Bryan Times wrote this amazing article

By Ron Osburn

Feb 8, 2022

At right, County Engineer Todd Roth speaks during Tuesday’s Williams County Active Transportation Plan committee meeting at the county’s East Annex conference room.

Photo by Ron Osburn

At its meeting Tuesday, the Williams County Active Transportation Committee (WCATC) said it continues to work to link together the county’s existing recreational amenities while creating new recreational opportunities for users within the county and beyond. The committee also agreed that two of its next immediate goals are to use social media to get that message to a wider audience and to develop a compendium of available funding sources that WCATC members can use for potential projects. That package of possible funding sources would be available for each entity involved with the Williams County Active Transportation Plan (WCATP), and importantly include application requirements and deadline dates, said Todd Roth, county engineer, who is spearheading the WCATP, now entering its fifth year.

Roth noted the WCATP is not a countywide transit system, but a partnership among county agencies and municipalities to develop and link the county’s recreational amenities for use by residents of the county and beyond, and use the amenities as an economic development tool.

“Active transportation” means any kind of transportation that’s not motorized, such as running, walking, bicycling, equestrian or even roller blading.

In addition to the county engineer’s office, representatives present Tuesday included those from the Williams County Port Authority, Northwest Ohio Rails-to-Trails Association, Ohio Department of Transportation, Williams County Health Department (WCHD), Maumee Valley Planning Organization (MVPO), the villages of Edgerton and Montpelier and the county parks department.

Various other local entities have participated at various stages over the past five years and the group is gearing back up after being interrupted for a couple of years by COVID.

The 53-page WCATP report, published in 2019, was developed by county stakeholders with a big assist from the MVPO and includes visions and goals, feedback from residents from a pair of public meetings, recommendations and possible funding sources and project priorities.

Topics discussed Tuesday included Edgerton’s current application process for a $400,000 Safe Routes to School project and a $2 million systemic safety review, both centered on making getting to and from its K-12 school campus safer for students and parents. Key aspects of the project include efforts to promote safety and relieve congestion at the student drop-off point by rerouting buses, and opening up and improving new walking and biking routes to school, including improving sidewalks near the school.

Village Administrator Dawn Fitzcharles said Tuesday presentations regarding those efforts will take place at village council’s Feb. 22 meeting, which is open to the public.

As an example of the holistic, intertwined nature of the WCATP’s efforts, improving walking and biking options to school can also help improve the overall physical and mental health of the county’s student population. A 2016 WCHD study showed 13% of the county’s youth is obese, and almost six years later, those numbers “are worse,” County Health Commissioner Jim Watkins said Tuesday.

Another discussion point was the upfront costs of the Complete Streets program, which promotes active transportation principles by encouraging the development of various features like sidewalks, bike lanes and roundabouts during residential development. Yet that can bump up the development cost of a residential lot by $50,000, Dave Newcomer, county port authority chairman, said Tuesday.

On the other hand, if those amenities are not added up front, once that house or development is built, often municipalities have to go back and put them in at their cost, or find the funding for it, noted Montpelier village councilman Chris Kannel.

MVPO’s Kim Lammers is speaking at the March meeting of the county port authority to provide more information on the Complete Streets program, and offered to work with the WCATC to make more information on the program available.

Kannel also suggested the committee solicit outside private funds to pay for an improved web presence, and to pay to get a plan shovel-ready to pave the Wabash Cannonball Trail so that if or when state or federal funds become available, the WCATC is ready to take advantage of it.

The next meeting of the WCATC is Tuesday, March 15, at 9 a.m. in the conference room of the county’s East Annex building in Bryan.

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