Keeping connected: Public comments set for bike, pedestrian master plan

HARLINGEN — Western Cameron County is a step, or a pedal, closer to its bicycle-pedestrian master plan.

The Harlingen-San Benito Metropolitan Planning Organization is hosting an open house for residents to comment and deliver their input into the overarching direction of pedestrian trails and walkways and bicycle routes.

And the consultant that produced the draft plan for the MPO, Halff Associates, will present several new potential projects.

“The open house is to get the public’s perspective or the consultant’s final recommendations for this area,” said J. Joel Garza Jr., director of the planning organization. “They will be presenting these after a month of scoping out the area, attending different public meetings, and they’re going to present several projects which are feasible to this area.”

This area, from the perspective of the metropolitan planning organization, covers a lot of ground in western Cameron County — 355 square miles.

The bike-ped master plan is in addition to similar plans discussed in cities and towns in Cameron County. Garza said the Harlingen-San Benito MPO takes a broader look at transportation but works to incorporate the ideas of municipal officials in its own planning.

For example, Harlingen has an aggressive bike and hiking trail plan, and the Harlingen-San-Benito MPO tries to “tie this all together,” Garza said.

The open house won’t have a beginning and ending, but rather will consist of a free-flowing agenda that allows residents to arrive at any time to discuss the master plan and to give their ideas about how it should proceed.

But halfway through the event, at 6 p.m., a new Schwinn hybrid bike will be raffled off, Garza said.

Anybody at the event will be handed a free raffle ticket, and will be eligible to win the bike. Garza said you will have to be present at 6 p.m. to win.

What’s it all about?

What: Harlingen-San Benito MPO bicycle-pedestrian master plan open house

Who: Residents of Combes, Harlingen, La Feria, Los Indios, Palm Valley, Primera, Rio Hondo, San Benito and Santa Rosa

Where: Harlingen Cultural Arts Center, 576 76 Dr., Harlingen

Why: Public input is being sought on the bike-ped master plan

When: 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10

Region’s bike-ped plans already in place

Brownsville MPO. Several bicycle and/or pedestrian mobility plans and studies have been conducted by the Brownsville MPO. Documents were reviewed to determine the MPO’s most recent bicycle and pedestrian network and facility design recommendations.

Hidalgo County MPO Bicycle Plan (2012). The Hidalgo County MPO Bicycle Plan recommends the addition of 82 miles of on-street and off-street bicycle facilities to the existing 32-mile system.

Recommended bicycle facility improvements include: striped bicycle lanes, paved shoulders, and shared-use paths. The plan identifies only two thoroughfares (U.S. Business 83, SH 107) extending into the HSBMPO study area which include shoulders suitable to accommodate bicycle travel. There are no current plans to add bicycle facility enhancements to either thoroughfare where they intersect Cameron County.

Hidalgo County MPO Pedestrian Plan (2013). The Hidalgo County MPO Pedestrian Plan identifies a system of high priority on-street pedestrian improvement projects within MPO study area. The Pedestrian Plan does not recommend any on-street or off-street projects that would provide connectivity to HSBMPO study area communities.

LRGV Active Transportation and Active Tourism Plan (2016). The Active Plan proposes a series of region-wide on-street bicycle routes and multi-use paths connecting Cameron County cities with area destinations and attractions. The plan’s recommended bicycle and pedestrian network includes routes that would be attractive to both visitors and local residents. Many HSBMPO communities participated in this planning activity.

Source: Halff Associates

View the draft of the bike-ped Harlingen-San Benito master plan at http://hsbmpo.org/bicycle-pedestrian-master-plan-spring-2016.html