Thursday, December 08, 2016

Bikeway and Walkability Committee Meeting Summary

Last night I attended the Costa Mesa Bikeway & Walkability Committee meeting - my first in many months - and found the Senior Center lobby in full Christmas mode.  I saw a few new faces but the same focused attention to business as I've observed in the past.  Most of the members attended - Ralph Taboarda, Cynthia McDonald, Russell Baldwin, Cindy Brenneman, Leah Ersoylu, Maggie Gallagher, Rick Huffman, Jim Kane, Jim Kerins, Andrea Marr, Flo Martin, John Merrill and Chamber of Commerce Liaison Brent Stoll were in the room,  with only Jim Erickson, Brian Valles and Newport Mesa Unified School District Liaison Dr. Kirk Bauermeister absent.  Council Liaison Katrina Foley attended this meeting, too, and provided some momentum to the process.
During member comments Flo Martin presented a slide show depicting what she described as a dangerous situation on Merrimac Way - the same presentation she made at the recent City Council meeting.  The combination of pending major construction, narrowed roadways and lack of sidewalk space is, as she put it, "An Accident Waiting To Happen" - she used a slide for emphasis.  Member Russell Baldwin affirmed her opinion.
Cindy Brenneman opined that fallen pine needles from the recent wind event are making many of the existing bike paths treacherous.

Jim Kerins, who arrived late,  inquired about the status of the 19th Street Bike Trail project, since it was the subject of discussion at the recent council meeting.

Maggie Gallagher observed that the lights are STILL not working along the new Harbor Blvd. bike path.

Jim Kane also chimed in on the Merrimac Way situation and asked for an update on the 19th Street Bike Trail.  He also wondered about the crossing on Placentia at Fairview Park - work seems to have stopped.  Acting Public Services Director Raja Sethruaman explained that there had been a delay.  Later he said something about the contractor defaulting and the bonding company was now involved and a new contractor will soon finish the project.  Kane also spoke briefly about a Sustainability Seminar and will provide handouts and business cards dealing with bike racks.  He was also concerned about the condition of the pavement on the Harbor Cornerstone Trail.  Foley opined that perhaps the contractor could repair it under a warranty.
Chairman Ralph Taboada told the group that Copenhagen recently passed a law that 50% of the communters must do so by bicycle.  He then addressed the council meeting discussion of the 19th Street Bike Trail, citing that he left the meeting angry because he was forbidden to address the issue as a commentor because he got his card in late.  He had wanted to set the record straight that their committee had NOT discussed the environmental portion of the planned trail.  Sethruaman had been charged with contacting the relevant agencies to determine whether our current plan is satisfactory before spending any more money on it.  That has not yet happened.

Rick Huffman complained that they didn't have enough notice on that item because it was a Consent Calendar item - something that might not be discussed at all.
Sethuraman gave a history of that project, observing it went way, way back - perhaps as far back as 2005.  He said that Federal grants are involved and that Cal Trans, US Fish and Wildlife and other agencies are also involved.  The discussion went on and on and on and it was left that Sethuraman will be addressing the issues with "resource agencies" and report back to the council before proceeding, even though the council approved this part of the project.

They approved the minutes of the prior meeting then went about the lengthy process of trying to prioritize their projects.  Foley played an active role in this process and, in fact, good progress was made toward winnowing down their long list if potential projects with an eye toward obtaining budget funding for the most important.  They defined specific areas where individual projects contribute to a larger plan.  It was an interesting process to watch because this group continues to be tightly focused and collaborative.
In future meetings members may hear solutions on how to make the public more aware of the need to provide bicyclers 3 feet clearance - state law requires it.  In the meantime, Foley suggested Public Information Officer Tony Dodero should write something for public consumption on the issue that could be "blasted" out to the school district.

Regarding the cost to produce a completed Bike Map for the General Plan, Sethuraman indicated the latest bid they received was $50,000, and that he's going to ask for more bids, since that number seems high.
The committee was advised, in response to a question, that the Arlington Drive Project MUST be completed by June, and that it's well underway.
There will be no meeting in January due to the holiday closure of City Hall and the fact that their meeting would have been scheduled on January 3rd, with insufficient time for any kind of staff preparation.  It is presumed the next meeting will be the first week of February.  The meeting adjourned shortly after 8:30.

A side note:  it was mentioned again that there are about a dozen vacancies in the staff ranks in the Public Services organization.  This shortage cannot help but create slowdowns throughout the management of projects.  Human Resources is working hard to fill those slots and contractors are being used in the meantime.
So, I'm glad I was among the four attendees at this meeting.  I missed watching them work and appreciate the progress they've been making and am looking forward to more good works next year.  Kudos to all.

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