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Public asked to weigh in on latest mobility document

October 25, 2011

The City of Bishop has released its final draft of the Mobility Element or transportation chapter of its General Plan and is accepting more public comments. The element does not contain a truck route, or bypass, idea. Photo by Mike Bodine

City officials have spent the past few months gathering public comments on Bishop’s Mobility Element, planned to be the transportation chapter of the city’s General Plan by February 2012. These elements help guide the city and its leaders in prioritizing, and eventually completing, projects that are in the best interest of the citizenry.
The city is, again, opening the door for comments on another draft of the element in November and January. This will be the new and final draft of the transportation chapter.
The final, much more detailed draft outlines long-range plans and ideas for transportation, such as improvements to streets and bikeways as well as accessibility needs. The element is not a blueprint, but a guide to street improvements that the city and individuals alike will make in the city, said Public Works Director Dave Grah.
Some of the ideas outlined in the element include ways to improve circulation for all forms of traffic in and around the city; one of these ideas was a trucks-only route, or bypass, around the city.
Some of those speaking out, and according to the city they accounted for the majority of comments received on the element, said they felt they had been run over by a proposal to put a noisy, smelly, bypass right in their backyard. The city guaranteed the public the bypass idea was simply an idea and not aproposal.
Despite the explanation, the public spoke out and was heard, as the final draft of the element is ready for review – sans any mention of a truck’s-only route or bypass.
The pair of documents that are essentially the Mobility Element are the Final Draft Mobility Element and the Final Draft Transportation Report, both available at www.ca-bishop.us, and at City Hall, 377 W. Line St.
The final draft is an update to the draft released in July and reflects the changes made as a result of public comments. The city began soliciting comments in May, but the response was weak, according to Grah. The city then decided to send out more than 2,400 letters to residences in July.
“The July documents generated a large number of public comments mostly related to a truck route that was included in that draft. The current documents do not include a truck route,” states a press release from the city. “The purpose of the truck route was to protect and improve the attractiveness of Main Street by removing the trucks that are just traveling through town. These trucks have a relatively large impact due to their size and noise but do little to benefit the local economy or community character.”
Grah explained in an earlier interview that truck traffic is expected to grow exponentially in the future and the public should be ready. As truck traffic grows, the access on and around Main Street will become more difficult.
A study that has been used in Bishop’s needs transportation assessment is the Bishop Area Access and Circulation Study completed in 2007. Conducted by Caltrans, the study centered around easing traffic on Main Street and opening up more accessibility for businesses and safety for pedestrians. The study concluded that traffic congestion, including trucks, is a concern.
While the element is not a projects list, it does have a goal of improving mobility and increasing safety in the city. The Transportation Report of the Element lists recommended studies and actions that will help toward that end.
A small list of these projects include: extending Sierra Street to See Vee Lane; improvements to Church Street with new pavement and construction of continuous curb; a new “A” Street Construct between Line Street and North Sierra Highway; a Bishop to Laws Path; and a new East Line Street bridge.
Grah explained that to implement a project on this list takes many steps. First, he said, comes the prioritization of a project. Priority comes from both the suggestions of the element and current concerns. As with all municipal entities, the safety of the citizens is the number one priority.
A new East Line Street bridge, for example, is a public safety concern. Although the city recently added a slower speed limit zone at the bridge, Grah said children will inevitably play on and around the bridge and drivers will race their cars across no matter the posted limit.
Grah said a possible solution would be widening the bridge. The next step is to find funding. Funding is needed for environmental studies that cost approximately 10-20 percent of a total project, plus design costs that can be just as expensive.
Grah said this stage is all-important for public comment. The design phase is where the details of the project are revealed. From there the job would go to bid and construction.
There is still a chance to comment on this important document that will help guide the city how people will move around in it in the future.
The Bishop Planning Commission will hold a public hearing and discuss the Mobility Element at its meeting on Nov. 29 with a final environmental study and comment periods in January 2012 and the Bishop City Council adoption late in February 2012.
Comments may be sent to 377 W. Line St., Bishop, CA 93514, or P.O. Box 1236, Bishop, CA 93515, or by calling (760) 873-8458, or by e-mail to publicworks@ca-bishop.us.

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