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transport agency approves concept of cycle paths connecting towns in Tuolumne County | News


A proposal to create designated cycle lanes on or alongside existing rail lines that would link Jamestown, Sonora and Columbia was approved in early December by members of the Tuolumne County Transportation Council.

The Sierra Railroad Trail proposal, estimated to cost $ 6.9 million, is part of a regional plan to promote safe bicycle travel for cycle tourism and economic development in Tuolumne, Stanislaus, San Joaquin, Calaveras and the Alpine counties.

The plan is to create a multi-use trail along the Sierra Railroad right-of-way between Jamestown and Sonora, proposed to begin at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown. The promoters of the project tout “a large car park for those who wish to park and cycle” in the national park, which is already an existing tourist destination.

From Jamestown, the rail corridor winds behind residential neighborhoods and wooded areas, and crosses Highway 108 before intersecting Symons Lane and South Washington Street near Grocery Outlet. Washington Street connects cyclists to Stockton Road and the existing multi-use trails at Dragoon Gulch. It includes the expansion of access for cyclists on several existing roads in Colombia.

Darin Grossi, executive director of the TCTC, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that the proposal is a concept that is being planned. There is not yet a timeline or budget set for the project, and the funding available will be limited.

However, the idea of ​​cycle lanes separate from motor vehicle routes in Mother Lode has already caught on with cycling advocates in Tuolumne County.

Rob Williams, a Valley Springs resident, is president of the Motherlode Bicycle Coalition which represents cyclists in four counties and an outreach management consultant with the California Bicycle Coalition. He helped Cole Przybyla, Director of Innovation and Business Support for Tuolumne County, with the Sierra Railroad Project.

Williams said he had been pursuing a Rails to Trails project in Tuolumne County for three years, and he helped Przybyla write an innovative concepts grant application to Caltrans in July.

“We haven’t been funded, but we are working on another grant with the Federal Economic Development Agency,” Williams said. “They are providing money for projects to increase tourism and outdoor recreation.”

Przybyla said he understood that the original idea for the Rails to Trails project came from the people who ran the Sierra Railroad in 2004. A report on the concept was paid for by the railroad, but the project stalled when it did. went to the supervisory board at the time, said Przybyla.

Williams and Przybyla helped organize a meeting in October with Mike Hart, general manager and president of Sierra Railroad and the Sierra Northern Railway Co. that owns it. At that meeting, Williams and Przybyla said in separate interviews that Hart said, “You can have our bondage.”

The proposed concept for a bike path is of benefit for a number of reasons, including bringing people outdoors, economic development and a tourist attraction for cyclists from all over California, Przybyla said, and so on. is an option for commuters, “a multimodal option” for getting around the county.

The next step, said Grossi and Przybyla, is a feasibility study that includes engineering plans, to talk about the tracks, how to finance the project, and seek to raise community awareness and understand how the rest of the community sees such project.

“The main point is what Darin said, at the moment it’s just a concept,” said Przybyla. “We are looking to continue this as a collaborative effort, to see how it might come to fruition in the next few years. This is a completely feasible concept, based on the State’s interest in financing projects that result in fewer kilometers traveled by vehicles, VMT. Personally, I would love to have the opportunity to cycle from Sonora to Jamestown.

People can legally cycle on most public roads in California anywhere they want, with the exception of interstate highways. Whether these roads are suitable for recreational cyclists depends on many variables, including the width of the roads and shoulders, and whether those shoulders are paved.

Cycling in Sonora and elsewhere in Tuolumne County can be difficult because, although the traffic is relatively light compared to large metropolitan urban areas and real towns, many roads are too narrow for cyclists to share in any way. safety roads with motor vehicles.

Brent Carkeet, owner of Sonora Cyclery on Mono Way, sells bikes, maintenance bikes and talks to cyclists every day his business is open and on his days off. He understands how cyclists think and what they want in Tuolumne County.

“I’ve been here five years from the Bay Area,” Carkeet said Tuesday in a telephone interview. “There are more bike paths and bike paths in the Bay Area. Coming here, the volume of traffic is much less, and I feel better, even though there are fewer bicycle lanes and cycle paths.

Nonetheless, there is an overwhelming desire locally for more bike lanes and more bike lanes, for family-friendly driving, so people don’t have to worry about traffic, Carkeet said.

“I talk to so many bikers who are afraid to ride downtown because of the traffic,” he said. “Being from the Bay Area I am okay with a lot of challenges, but sometimes it can feel more dangerous here. “

It can feel cramped, uncompromising and intimidating to ride here in Tuolumne County, Carkeet said, adding that there must be designated paths that anyone can use and travel for miles without worrying about sharing roads with cars.

“Really the only thing we have right now is the old railroad grades,” he said. “The main one that everyone loves is the one from Middle Camp Road to the Lyons Dam. It’s a great course, friendly for everyone, the whole family can enter. There is a huge demand for more of this. Something like that going from here to Jamestown would be just phenomenal.

Lisa Mayo, president and CEO of the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau, said the number one priority for starting a road bike program is safety, and it’s hard for her agency to recommend where people can. safe road cycling. This is one of the reasons her agency has pictures of people mountain biking in Tuolumne County, but no pictures of people on road bikes, she said.

“When I was a kid I used to drive three kilometers on my own on Italian Bar Road to Lime Kiln, Wards Ferry, and all over that area and back home,” she said. declared. “It’s not something I would recommend today.”

Promoting bicycle safety and bicycle tourism is certainly something the visitor’s office can support, Mayo said. This type of destination development benefits residents who may need to travel from point A to point B for work or school, and it can be recreational and healthy for them, she said.

Mountain biking is very popular in the central Sierra, and the success of the Groveland Trailheads project in Groveland is very telling, said Mayo.

“For visitors, biking can be a fun way to explore a city, as you can stop when needed / want to read historical landmarks, take in great scenery or have a picnic by the side of the road,” said she declared. “It also gives a healthy feel to their trip, and everything is done outdoors which is more popular than ever!

The TCTC has six seats, currently held by County Supervisors Kathleen Haff and Ryan Campbell, City Council Members Jim Garaventa and Colette Such, and Gregoria Ponce, Head of Rural Planning with Caltrans District 10. A Citizen’s Seat in board is vacant.

The TCTC is responsible for developing transportation improvements that reflect the needs, concerns and actions of all government agencies, including tribal governments, in the Tuolumne County area. The objectives of the council are to contribute to mobility, economic health and the quality of the environment in the region.

The council also manages the resources of the separate Tuolumne County transportation agency and other various advisory boards that are expected to play a role in the future of transportation in Tuolumne County.