MORGAN -- A new draft of the Morgan County general plan, the first update in more than a decade, addresses a transportation plan not only for motorists, but also for cyclists. Local bike enthusiasts recently attended a Morgan County Council meeting to ask county officials what is being done to provide better infrastructure.
Years ago the county applied for a $2 million grant through the state transportation improvement plan to be used for maintenance and repair of Old Highway Road and the north portion of Morgan Valley Drive.
The county's application has been approved, and the money that will be available Oct. 1, 2011, will require $140,000 of matching county funds.
To the dismay of local cyclists, none of the money will be used for creating bike lanes, Council Chairman Sid Creager said.
"When the $2 million becomes available and bike lanes are not going in, don't go into cardiac arrest," Creager said.
The money, however, can be used to widen very narrow portions of road, Creager said. Some county roads are no wider than 24 feet, providing "virtually no shoulder," he said. The county would like to widen such portions of road to 30 feet, which could provide up to four feet of shoulder on each side of the road.
"Cyclists would absolutely love that," Creager said, noting that the county should do better at striping both inner and outer traffic lanes in the future.
"As a cyclist community, we are the smallest, most fragile vehicle on the road," said resident Mike Loveland, who estimates the county has 200 bike enthusiasts. "We don't want the whole road."
"I've seen what happens when cars and cyclists don't play nicely," said Jeff Farmer, who moved to the county six months ago. "I want to be safe and happy and not pick my friends up off of the road."
According to a recent UDOT transportation study, the only roads with 4-foot-wide shoulders are in Morgan City limits.
But with 21 total miles of road with narrow shoulders, the grant will likely not stretch far enough, Creager said. He estimates that widening the 21 total miles of road just two feet would cost up to $1.2 million, including grading, drainage and culvert work.
"This is the challenge Morgan County faces," said Creager, who said he also is a cyclist who enjoys the "Morgan Valley Loop."
Creager, who will soon leave the council seat, encouraged cyclists and future council members to pursue other UDOT monies for alternative transportation programs. Although the programs would require a 50-50 match, private citizens can contribute to the match as long as the county agrees in writing to a maintenance agreement, Creager said.
"The county is not against cycling. We know it's a healthy sport," he said. "Don't give up. If we can come up with matching funds, it is doable. It takes effort and tenacity."