Introduction

 

Executive Summary

The City of Prairie du Chien, Town of Prairie du Chien, and Town of Bridgeport, with help from a Department of Transportation planning grant, have a unique opportunity to develop a Bike/ Pedestrian Tail System that will have a far-reaching impact on the transportation system of the extended community and the quality of life of its citizens.  In addition to the practical benefits associated with an alternate mode of transportation that will connect the various destinations within the community, the trail will offer a safe means for our children to travel to and from school, and a healthy way for citizens and visitors alike to enjoy the area’s unsurpassed beauty.  In short, the path will make an undeniable statement as to our commitment to a superior quality of life.

The trail will be designed to link the City and adjacent townships with all significant destinations, including schools, parks, recreational venues, retail centers, industrial parks, and major residential areas.  These areas will be connected in the most efficient manner possible that will minimize travel times and maximize safety.  In developing the plan, we will endeavor to seek input from as many sources as necessary to arrive at consensus, including industry representatives, business groups, government officials, civic clubs, school children, and interested citizens.  To achieve maximum public comment, we will publicize the plan and process through the media and on our website at developmentplanning.net. 

The finished plan will be submitted to the City and adjacent townships for their consideration and subsequent implementation according to priorities and available funding.  With persistence and commitment, we can one day look back on this process as an opportunity realized. 

 

Opportunities

The City of Prairie du Chien, Town of Prairie du Chien, and the Town of Bridgeport have received funding from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to plan a comprehensive pedestrian/ bike trail connecting various points in the City with rapidly developing areas of the Townships.

The Trail System will be used by bicyclists as well as pedestrians.  Persons may use the system for pure recreational use or as a means of safely traveling to different destination points within the area.  We anticipate the overall planning process to be completed by June 2004.  The plan will be a useful tool to the City and Townships, but only to the extent it reflects the needs and concerns of the potential users, an it is for that reason we urge you to provide us your thoughts  on the direction we take during the development of this plan.

Benefits

As we begin to examine the anticipated benefits of a Bike/ Pedestrian Path for the Prairie du Chien area, let us for a moment look beyond the practical advantages – providing alternative transportation, safety for our children, and opportunities for exercise and recreation – and imagine the aesthetic benefits.  The Prairie du Chien area has been a center of transportation for well over 300 years, beginning as the focal point for fur-traders and explorers who came to ply trades and find new routes to connect points of commerce.  They were lured here by its natural geography, drawn to a natural gathering place formed by the confluence of rivers and land routes.  We have inherited that history as a natural gathering place, adding to it the highways and railroads that make us today a natural transportation hub as well.  What we currently lack in that inventory of transportation modes is a bike/ pedestrian path, a way of traveling the area in much the same way as we began 300 years ago, under our own power.

The Prairie du Chien area lies in a region unsurpassed in natural beauty and physical charm, a perfect setting to enjoy a walk or bicycle ride along and through its many points of interest.  It is hard to imagine a more appropriate and enjoyable way to experience the area’s scenery than an open-air walk or bicycle-ride, able to look to wherever your eyes are drawn.  Yet its most interesting features – the river and the bluffs – are separated by several north-south transportation corridors, making a complete tour of the area both wearisome and disjointed.  Traveling east and west, the sightseer must cross several primary corridors, including one of the busiest highways in the region, and the busiest railroad in the Midwest.  A bicycle/ pedestrian path will give continuity to the many natural features that lie in an east-west direction, but are currently partitioned into several north-south sections.

 The aesthetic benefits of connecting the natural features of our area lead us back to the practical benefits of connecting not only points of interest, but also points of necessity.  We need to get to work, get to school, or get to the store; and to do so without having to jump in the car.  For those of us inclined to walk or ride a bike – and we intend to measure that number with this study – it makes sense to have a path that connects where we are with where we want to go.  A bicycle pedestrian path will offer a viable alternative to getting to our destination in a safe and efficient manner, in a way that allows enjoyment of the experience without undue delay caused by conflict with automobile traffic.  Residential and business/ industrial zones are in many instances also separated by the north-south “partitions” mentioned earlier.  A path that allows easy access through these transportation barriers will go a long way to providing the means and incentive to seriously consider leaving the car in the garage.

 Nothing mentioned thus far outweighs the safety of our children when considering the benefits of a bicycle/ pedestrian path.  Most of us have experienced the mental conflict of wanting to give our children the freedom and enjoyment of that first walk or bike-ride to school, set against the perils of doing so.  Our hesitation centers on the risk our children face when crossing the north-south corridors on the way to school in an east-west direction.  Bluff View School, the destination for our youngest and most inexperienced travelers, lies at the eastward extreme of that path.  A well-designed path will give us the peace of mind to send our children to school in the morning knowing that some of the risks of getting there have been removed.

If the Prairie du Chien area is to attract and maintain a superior workforce, especially at the professional level, it must develop and maintain an attractive infrastructure.  Prospective professionals – as well as existing professionals who might be lured away – look to communities that provide the best opportunities and living conditions for themselves and their families.  A bike/ pedestrian path reveals to them a progressive community, one that is concerned for the safety and health of its residents.  The path will provide the worker with a healthy alternative to automotive transportation, thereby reducing stress, encouraging exercise, and resulting in a more productive workforce.  A bike/ pedestrian path therefore represents not only a significant benefit to the existing workforce, but also a highly visible statement of our quality of life to potential residents.

The path represents a significant statement to potential visitors as well.  Because of the natural and historic assets mentioned earlier, Prairie du Chien enjoys a reputation as regional destination for tourism, as many residents of the metropolitan population that encircles our area come to avail themselves of our many recreational opportunities.  The existence of a bike/ pedestrian path will only enhance that attraction to the area, opening entirely new markets to people eager for not only passive sightseeing, but also active experiences.  A path that connects the areas many tourism assets will represent a strong component of a potentially significant marketing strategy to attract new visitors to the area.

One of the important auxiliary benefits of a bike/ pedestrian path will be the contribution to a sense of community derived from joining together the city with the adjacent townships.  The Towns of Prairie du Chien and Bridgeport are experiencing substantial growth in residential and commercial sectors, and if transportation issues are not properly managed, will result in the isolation of population clusters.  The Department of Transportation led Study Group is currently reviewing ways of reducing congestion on routes within and between the communities, and have already suggested that a bike/ pedestrian path is an important component to any remedial solution.  A bike/ pedestrian path will also provide continuity between communities, allowing easy accessibility to each area's commercial assets from neighboring residential areas.  This continuity will not only provide a viable and desirable transportation route, it will serve as a source of pride and identity that all three communities can collectively enjoy.

Finally, the residents of the Prairie du Chien area will benefit from the freedom of choice that a bike/ pedestrian path brings to a community.  No longer confined to a limited selection of transportation modes, residents will appreciate the considerable improvement in quality of life offered by a path with respect to recreation, exercise, and aesthetic enjoyment of our surrounding.  The path will contribute to the community’s sense of well-being by offering a healthy diversion from the stresses of everyday life.

 By offering these many benefits to our children, our workforce, our visitors, and ourselves – we stand to meaningfully improve our overall quality of life by offering real choices in transportation, reducing congestion on our streets, and reducing stress in our lives.   In turn, this brings us back to where we started: an appreciation for the beautiful area in which we live, and now a proposal for a better way to enjoy it.

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Plan Objectives

To achieve the many benefits derived from a comprehensive bike/ pedestrian path; it will be necessary to design the path to meet specific and achievable objectives. The Bike/ Pedestrian Path Plan shall:

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Link residential areas with primary retail, commercial, and recreational destinations.

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Link the City of Prairie du Chien with the Bridgeport and Prairie du Chien Townships in order to enhance continuity of travel and foster a sense of community.

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Provide an efficient mode of travel that will maximize usage, minimize travel times, and reduce congestion with automotive traffic.

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Provide a safe mode of travel that crosses major automotive and railroad corridors in a manner that lessens the danger to our children and citizens.

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Enhance the enjoyment of our natural surroundings and be a source of community pride and prestige.

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Meet design criteria consistent with the Wisconsin DOT Bicycle & Pedestrian Planning Guidelines and AASHTO Bicycle Facilities Guide.

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Recommend a strategy that will be feasible to implement.

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Process Objectives

To achieve the Plan Objectives, it will be necessary to establish a process that guides us toward the desired outcome.  In developing the Plan, we shall:

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Gather information that will be necessary to assess existing transportation systems.

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Inventory assets – including publicly owned right-of-ways and primary connecting points – to determine possible path corridors.

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Survey schools, professionals, and employees to determine their needs and desires for a bike/ pedestrian path.

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Consult with tourism industry representatives, businesses, civic organizations, and government officials to ascertain their requirements for a successful bike/ pedestrian path.

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Publicize the planning process through the media and the project website in order to maximize public input and support.

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Seek public comment through community meetings and displays that will improve the review and revision process.

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Publish the results in a report and on the project website to increase public awareness. 

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