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With an eye toward making the city more walkable and bikeable, city officials are set to utilize a $300,000 grant to design an interconnected bike and pedestrian network throughout the city.

The project — called the Santa Maria Active Transportation Plan — involves a study of current conditions along with seeking public input to map out a comprehensive citywide plan of interconnected pedestrian and bike paths, city engineer Rodger Olds said.

Construction of the paths would not be included as part of the Caltrans grant, which is for $296,700. The city will contribute a local match of $48,300 for a total project cost of $345,000. Money put in by the city will come from Measure A funds, Olds said.

Ken Dally, president of the Tailwinds Bicycle Club of Santa Maria, said he thinks there’s no need for another study, citing the Bikeway Master Plan developed by the city and adopted by the City Council in 2009.

“All we have to do is reread the (Bikeway Master Plan) they did 10 years ago — those things still apply,” Dally said. “Basically, implement some of the things in the plan and stop spending money on studies.”

Dally said routes that allow riders to safely get from the northern part of the city to the south were the most desperately needed.

“Some places, there’s a couple miles of paths and then they stop,” Dally said. "So, there’s really no safe way to get from north to south.”

While the Bikeway Master Plan will serve as a starting point, Olds said, the Active Transportation Plan will include and expand upon the Bikeway Master Plan.

Additional focus will be on developing pedestrian enhancements to make the city more walkable and expand the areas of the city that are accessible for those in wheelchairs.

“We’re trying to organize all the facets of transportation other than cars — we got bikes, pedestrians, people in wheelchairs,” Olds said.

“We’re going to focus on finding where we get the biggest bang for our buck,” he said. “We can improve a sidewalk in the middle of nowhere where there’s really not a whole lot of demand, or do we repair and replace a sidewalk that is connecting an elder care center or high-density residential (building) to a commercial center?

“The primary deliverable that we want from this is a well-vetted, well-discussed plan of projects,” Olds said. “We want prioritized lists of projects.”

Those projects will help facilitate the process of applying for grants to help cover the construction process.

“So we have this list of projects that’s already been developed and worked on, with a robust community outreach,” Olds said. “We would be able to fold that into grant applicancy.

“It will feed future construction — it’s basically creating a road map for our capital improvements program going forward and our future grant applications.”

In addition to the development of the Active Transportation Plan, the city is looking to extend some of the current bike routes by the end of the year.

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Taking advantage of resurfacing work scheduled over the next few months for certain roads — like Miller Street — the city will be able to create bike lanes.

Miller Street currently has bike lanes on parts of the street but lacks them on a large section from Boone to Donovan streets, Olds said. An engineer is currently making sure there is enough room on Miller to allow for the addition of a bike lane while still providing adequate space for vehicles. If possible, bikes lanes would be added during the restriping process after the street is resurfaced.

Another project in the works is the Civic Center Multipurpose Trail, which will create a shortcut from the area around the Transit Center to downtown by going across Simas Park and ending at McClelland Street.

Going forward, the plan is to use the grant funds to hire a consultant to assist the city in developing its Active Transportation Plan.

Olds said the city will begin the search for a consultant — through a request for proposal process — after the start of the new federal fiscal year on Oct. 1. After that, city officials expect the process to take around a year.

“It’s going to be an ongoing project,” Olds said. “There will be multiple public workshops, public meetings — we want to try to be responsive and include everybody. This is a communitywide effort.”

The city should expect at least three public workshops to seek public input, he said.

Razi Syed covers Santa Maria City Government for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.  Follow him on Twitter @razisyed

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