Washington bike and pedestrian plans may be considered in budget

Published 6:52 pm Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Washington City Council may take a closer look at a pair of plans designed to improve walking and biking in the city during its upcoming budget process. Each of the plans contains dozens of recommended projects throughout the city, from installing new sidewalks and bike lanes to establishing new crosswalks at key road crossings, and advocates for both plans are looking for action from the council.


During the council’s meeting on Monday, the group heard from Washington resident Betsy Kane, an advocate for exploring the plans more thoroughly. In addition to Kane, more than a dozen other local residents showed up in support of following through with the plans.

“What I see in Washington are a whole lot of utility cyclists,” Kane said. “These are the people who don’t do it for recreation, but who use bikes for basic mobility, to go to work and to go shopping. You see them everywhere and you worry about them, because it’s tough out there on Carolina Avenue or 15th Street.”

A former employee of the NCDOT, Kane is familiar with the types of plans Washington has on the table. Combining this previous knowledge with a passion for biking and walking, Kane has appeared before the council twice, volunteering to take the lead on helping the city make these projects a reality, an offer which extends to research on grant funding.

From the perspective of a realtor, plan supporter Scott Campbell says that when people are looking for a new home, a pedestrian- and cycle-friendly community can make all the difference. A downtown resident himself, Campbell added that he would enjoy seeing more options of pedestrians and cyclists.

“As a downtown resident and local realtor, probably one of the top desires of a client is walkability and bikeabilty,” Campbell said. “We need to put into force a plan that would address that concern, especially as we’ve gotten a lot busier in town. There are more cars, more bikes and more walkers and that’s all good stuff, so we need to get ahead of that so we can keep moving forward.”

For Inner Banks Outfitters proprietor Liane Harsh, a cycling enthusiast herself, cycling improvements would mean more people enjoying bikes and a safer Washington.

“Anything we can do, starting with pedestrian and hopefully moving into cycling, to get people moving and give them the ability to get around on their own without a vehicle is just so awesome,” Harsh said. “To be able to do it safely is key. We have a huge community here that doesn’t have cars, and we need to support that. They deserve to have support from the community just like everybody else.”


In the pedestrian plan, a total of 29 proposed sidewalk projects are included, along with 15 proposed crosswalks throughout the city. Of the crosswalks, five are located on U.S. Highway 17 and Carolina Avenue, four cross U.S. Highway 264 and two intersect 15th Street, all high-traffic areas in the city that see countless pedestrian crossings each day.

In terms of sidewalks, the plan identifies more than 11.8 miles of roadway that could be improved. The document does not provide cost estimates for the installation of said sidewalks.

BIKE PLAN: Identifying 32 potential projects, the Strategic Bike Plan includes recommendation regarding bike lanes, signage and other improvements. (City of Washington)


Within the Strategic Bicycle Plan, there are a total of 32 proposed improvements, with seven types of projects for the city to consider. The plan looks at possible improvements at six intersections throughout the city, as well as designated bike lanes, shared car and bike routes, paved shoulders, signed bike routes and a side-use path connecting 15th street and Airport Road, the site of most of Washington’s Parks and Recreation facilities.

Taken as whole, potential improvements vary greatly in cost, ranging from relatively cheap improvements such as road signs and shared-lane painting to more involved projects such as installing paved shoulders and widening sidewalks.

Among the more expensive of the proposed projects are a $528,000 side use path connecting 15th Street and Airport Road, and the installation of a paved shoulder on Whispering Pines Road for $240,000.

The final, and most costly, parts of the plan, would be a pair of projects estimated to cost $3 million each: a Carolina Avenue improvement project and the Washington-Greenville Rails to Trails Greenway, a proposed project that would connect the two cities for cycling, pedestrian traffic and horseback riding in certain areas. Without these two projects, the estimated costs for all other parts of the plan are less than $1 million.


While implementing both the pedestrian and bicycle plans in full would cost the city millions of dollars, the key to implementation would be tackling projects piecemeal, according to John Rodman, director of planning and development for the City of Washington.

“We certainly want to be not only a walkable community, but a rideable community as well,” Rodman said. “Both of these plans have recommendations that the city should do, and it’s up to us to help implement some of these recommendations.”

During the budget process, Rodman says that his office will go back to the Parks and Recreation advisory committee to see what some of their recommendations might be.

“We certainly can’t do all the recommendations at one time,” Rodman said. “So what they want to do is set their priorities and then maybe tackle one or two of those priorities during the upcoming budget session.”

While a number of proposed improvements may be expensive, the plans also lay out potential state and federal funding sources, among other grant opportunities.