3/4/2017 Update: Funding Secured Devil’s in the (Construction) Details
While substantial funding is in place for the projects associated with Connect Our Schools, we still have a long way to go. The City of Harrsisonburg solicited public input early in the process (January 11 Citizen Input Meeting) and is about to embark on preliminary engineering to determine cost estimates. We asked for you to comment on the projects and process right here.
You may have heard about recent reports that the city will be short on funding for these projects. We continue to work with the city to help shape the best possible outcome and be sure our schools, parks, and communities are connected for biking and walking. Have ideas or want to get involved? We need all the help we can get for what will be the largest walk/bike project in the history of our Firendly City. Email us to see how you can help [email protected]
7/18/2016: City Council and VDOT to fund Projects
We did it! With your help and a community of support, the City of Harrisonburg added an additional $1.5 million to their latest bond for Bluestone Elementary School. We recently learned that the city also received a $1.5 million match from the Virginia Department of Transportation in the form of revenue sharing allocation. Listen to the WMRA piece on Connect Our Schools.
The combined total of $3 million will be the largest single sum the city has ever spent on biking and walking projects at one time. This is HUGE!
A victory like this is many years in the making. Over a decade of planning, organizing, building momentum, and showing our city why it is so important to encourage and foster active, healthy, and connected communities.
Unfortunately, it does not look like the city will move as quickly as we had hoped to build these greenways. As of now we are looking at 2018 or 2019 before the paths are on the ground. Rest assured that we will continue to work with the city to ensure they move as quickly as possible towards construction. We recognize the level of planning and engineering required before the dirt can start flying. Once the initial engineering has taken place we will reassesses the situation and stay in communication with the city and all of YOU, our wonderful supporters.
WMRA piece on Connect Our Schools: http://wmra.org/post/gearing-school-bike-paths-harrisonburg
Want to help? We can always use your donations. Those yard signs aren’t fee. DONATE NOW
Goal: Fund and build Garbers Church Greenways by the time the new elementary school is built, thereby connecting over half of the City’s student population with walking and biking paths to their elementary, middle and high schools
How Can I Help Make This Happen?
- SIGN our Letter of Support to the City of Harrisonburg. We have a goal of 1,000 signatures from city residents by March 8. Sign, then please share with your friends. Sign Today
- SEND an Email to members of the Harrisonburg City Council with a quick and easy copy & paste of our form letter.
- SEND a personal email to your city council members by incorporating our talking points into your email.
- Help Grow the Party– We are compiling a list of local businesses and organizations who support Connecting our Schools. Have interest? Know someone who might be interested?
- SHOW UP– We plan to show our support for connecting our newest school at a City Council Meeting in March. We don’t know the exact date yet but Join our Facebook Event and Stay tuned because we will be sure to let you know when we need your support!
- SIGN UP- to receive email updates from the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition
- JOIN- the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition to help us continue working with our city, county, and National Forest to improve our community for biking and walking.
- DONATE- We are an all-volunteer non-profit and need your support to continue improving Biking and Walking in our community.
The City of Harrisonburg has the opportunity to fund and construct several shared-use paths in the vicinity of Garbers Church Road in tandem with the 2017 opening of the City’s newest elementary school. These walking and bicycling paths would connect Harrisonburg High School, Thomas Harrison Middle School, and the future elementary school to the rest of the City.
About the Garbers Church Walking and Bicycling Paths:
The three paths in the Garbers Church plans would, combined, serve over half of the Harrisonburg city school population by providing walking and biking connectivity to Harrisonburg High School, Thomas Harrison Middle School, and the newest city elementary school. The three components of the project are described and shown on the map below:
Project 1: Paths along Garbers Church Road, likely a sidewalk north of the new elementary school, and an asphalt paved path along Garbers Church Road south of the new school.
Project 2: Connecting from Hillandale Park around the perimeter of Heritage Oaks Golf Course and to Garbers Church Rd shared use paths. Also a connection from Hillandale Park to the Wyndham Woods Neighborhood.
Project 3: “Cale” Trail and connections to Thomas Harrison Middle School. One or more of these connections may be natural surface and will connect Thomas Harrison to Wyndham Woods and Westover Park.
Frequently Asked Questions:
You can ALWAYS Email us with questions ([email protected]) or call us 571-277-8121
- Why are these trails important?
These three projects combined would serve over half of the Harrisonburg city school population by providing walking and biking connectivity to Harrisonburg High School, Thomas Harrison Middle School, and the newest city elementary school. We wouldn’t build a school without a road so we shouldn’t build without cycling and walking connections either.
- Where did this idea come from?
Planning for these connections began over a decade ago. These paths and trails have been specifically laid out in the City of Harrisonburg Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan since 2010 but the need for connections to these schools was identified as a component in the plan since 2005.
- How much will it all cost?
City staff estimates the total cost of all three projects featured on map to be roughly $3 million. While that seems like a lot of money, it is important from a sustainability standpoint that these types of construction projects are executed in a manner that won’t require frequent maintenance and maximizes the safety of all users.
- How will the city pay for it?
We think the specifics of funding the paths is best left up to city council and staff, as they are the direct experts overseeing this project. As we’ve studied other successful bicycle-friendly communities around the country, we have noticed several important funding trends that we’re happy to share:
- Grant opportunities for bicycle infrastructure are significant and should be pursued whenever feasible.
- Funding for cycling and walking accommodations can and should enjoy the same funding sources and conventional road funding.
- The best time to plan for and implement bicycle infrastructure projects is concurrently with other capital improvements (whether building schools, widening roads, or other public amenities.) This both reduces overall construction time and lowers total costs, as all infrastructure improvements can be jointly financed.
- I heard that the city was applying for a grant to fund these projects?
You heard correctly! Fortunately, our city already values biking and walking connections. City staff, with the support of council, applied for a VDOT Revenue Sharing Grant that would cover half the cost of the project (roughly $1.5 million) with the remaining $1.5 million to be matched by the City. If awarded, the revenue sharing grant, the city will have full funding to complete all three Garbers Church Projects.
You can read specifics about the city’s application in the November minutes from the Harrisonburg Bicycle and Pedestrian Subcommittee. The discussion is found on pages 2-4. The Garbers Church Road Shared Use Paths receive third priority out of five projects. The city will know by June whether or not VDOT will be awarding us the grant.
- What is the timeline for this Issue?
The City is planning to open our newest elementary school in fall of 2017. That means that funding for these paths will likely need to be underway in the next few months. That said, we can’t stress enough our goal to have these trails completed by the time the school opens.
- //What will the trails look like?
The recently constructed Bluestone Trail is a great example of what these “greenways” or shared use paths would look and feel like whether on a bike or on foot. We imagine the majority of these trails to be paved while some may remain natural surface depending on the surrounding environment.
- I thought we were already a “Bicycle Friendly Community”? Why do we need all of this?
As a result of all the hard work by the cycling community and our local government, Harrisonburg is recognized as a Bronze Level Bicycle Friendly Community. With more work we hope to move up the ladder to silver, gold, and one day, maybe even platinum. Just over the mountain, our neighboring city of Charlottesville is a silver level community. Harrisonburg recently received a report card from the League of American Bicyclists that includes a recommendation for us to implement projects from our bike/ped plan. You can read the full report card here. Construction of this project would demonstrate a serious commitment towards a “Silver” Bicycle Friendly Community and most specifically towards bicycle accessibility for students ranging from elementary to high school age
Connect schools to adjacent neighborhoods and Parks