Friday, November 04, 2011

Montgomery Co. Commissioner Candidates Shapiro/Richards's Responses to Our Bicycling Questionnaire

Here are the responses to our bicycling-issues questionnaire from the Josh Shapiro/Leslie Richards campaign for Montgomery County Commissioner. Their answers follow each bolded question.

Montgomery CountyCommissioner Candidate Questionnaire - October 2011

Over the last decade, significant numbers of residents in suburbanPhiladelphia have switched over to using their bike to commute to work. Between 2000 and 2009, the percentage of bikecommuters grew by 488% in Chester County, 126% in Delaware County, 84% inMontgomery County and 67% in Bucks.

Despite this growth, bicycle facilities in these counties havelagged behind Philadelphia. An onerousPennDOT regulation called the Bicycle Occupancy Permit (BOP) causesmunicipalities to be unwilling to agree to allow bike lanes on stateroads. Consequently, there are only 14miles of bike lanes in the four counties, as opposed to over 200 inPhiladelphia. The Bicycle Coalition is working to remove this regulatoryobstacle to help promote the development of more bicycle facilities in suburbancounties.

1. Would you support completing the region’s Trail Network by funding projects that would complete the Schuylkill River Trail and Cross County Trail in Montgomery County?

Absolutely, and we would add the Chester Valley Trail to that list as well. The current budget situation in Montgomery County will present challenges, but one of the most recognizable and most appreciated of county services in Montgomery County is the trail system. As we will with many different issues, we will seek innovative ways to find the dollars necessary to keep these projects moving forward, including public/private partnerships. In Montgomery County the Schuylkill River Trail is nearly complete with two relatively small sections in the Pottstown areas that need to be completed. That together with a path along the Mont Clare Canal will essentially finish the trail in Montgomery County.

We believe the Chester Valley Trail is another important project that due to the high population and commercial areas it traverses. Chester County is making steady progress on its section of the trial, and Montgomery County has acquired much of the right of way necessary to complete the project and design work is underway.

Unfortunately, the Cross County Trail has been hobbled by a series of problems, not the least of which is the lack of cooperation from Norfolk and Southern Railroad. Planners have now identified much of the alternate routing necessary, but a significant amount of money is still needed to complete the infrastructure. Nevertheless, we are committed to finding ways to raise the money necessary to complete this critically important trail.

Many of these projects depend upon cooperation between different levels of government. A Shapiro Richards administration will have one senior level person in the commissioners responsible for improving communications with Members of Congress, county legislators and local municipalities to help ensure that opportunities for legislation and funding are not squandered. Where appropriate, our administration will work with organizations like the Bicycle Coalition to coordinate advocacy efforts.
2. Would you support devoting more federal and state transportation funds to bicycle and pedestrian projects?


3. Would you support implementation the 1995 Montgomery County bicycle/pedestrian plan through PennDOT’s resurfacing projects?

Yes, we would. PennDOT has presented major problems in this area due to the BOP. This, as you explain in your letter, has made it very difficult to implement bike lanes throughout the suburbs. We would want to make sure that the 1995 is up-to-date, but we certainly support implementing the plan, and would use our legislative advocacy person in the commissioners’ office to convince PennDOT to revise its BOP policy and be more bicycle-friendly.

NOTE 1: One other point we would like to make is that it is our intention to implement a policy that will make it more attractive for county employees to commute to work by bike.

NOTE 2: Leslie Richards is a senior project manager at a woman-owned civil engineering firm, and she is well aware of the advantages of providing a bicycle-friendly environment. The majority of her bridge projects include pedestrian/bicycle walkways. On one of her projects, bicyclists were provided a shuttle service during construction so that they could safely cross the bridge while the pedestrian/bicycle walkway was being rehabilitated.