Multimodal path continues mile-by-mile projects

Kyle Phillips / The Transcript

The 10-foot wide multimodal path that runs along Highway 9 to Lake Thunderbird is entering the second phase of construction between 36th Avenue SE to 48th Avenue SE.

One mile down and several more to go. Mile by mile Norman is continuing to build a 10-foot wide concrete multimodal path.

There are multiple projects for the multimodal path, which all work to connect the rural and urban areas of Norman. One project runs along Highway 9 and connects to Lake Thunderbird.

Angelo Lombardo, the city's transportation engineer, said all paths connect and can be used to get to Lake Thunderbird. The paths also provide important linkage to the University of Oklahoma's system, he said.

These paths are designed to provide transportation facilities for non-motorized users such as runners, bicyclists and residents with wheelchairs, strollers and walkers for a safe way to travel through the city, Lombardo said.

"Ultimately what we want is to connect northwest Norman and the City of Moore area to have either bike lanes or multimodal paths that would allow people to travel from far northwest Norman, even from out of town from Moore or Oklahoma City, through the core part of Norman, through the campus and eventually to Highway 9 and east on Highway 9 to Lake Thunderbird," Lombardo said.

The work doesn't require road closures and includes reconstruction of the few driveways and streets that intersect with the highway. There are some new additions to the path as well, such as embedded solar-powered LED lights and a pole counter that will count bike and pedestrian traffic, which Lombardo said is the first counter on any Norman path.

The first phase of the Highway 9 section was completed between 24th Avenue SE and 36th Avenue SE, and the second phase between 36th Avenue SE to 48th Avenue SE is near construction, Lombardo said. The project as a whole contains about five or six phases, he said.

The second phase is tentatively scheduled with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation for February or March, Lombardo said. The project is receiving $600,000 through a transportation alternative grant, and the first phase was granted $750,000 before the federal funding cap was lowered to $600,000.

It has been the city's strategy to try and leverage for federal funds through the transportation enhancement program funding or the transportation alternatives program funding for each mile's project, Lombardo said. It's usually been an 80-20 split, he said with the city paying 20% for construction.

Each project that is about to get off the ground has funding through one of these options, Lombardo said, and anything east of 48th along Highway 9 will be applied for later.

"We currently have money to do four miles of path in the city, and you add that to all of the transportation enhancement type projects within the capital projects from the 2019 transportation bond issue," Lombardo said.

Two projects are already funded through alternative transportation program grant funding, Lombardo said. One is a path along Constitution Street between Jenkins and Classen, which is under design right now and he said will open bidding in nine to 12 months.

The same is true, he said, for the path project along Flood Avenue between Robinson Street and Tecumseh Road.

The next project to get off the ground in the spring is the filling of a couple of gaps along the 24th Avenue NW path, Lombardo said, in the University North Park area between Robinson Street and Rock Creek Road.

Following that is the construction of the path on 36th Avenue NW between Rock Creek Road and the water tower on 36th Avenue. Lombardo said there is some existing path in that area already.

The vision for this multimodal path was developed 25 years ago, Lombardo said, and became a formal plan which was added to the city's transportation plan. Now, he said, residents are seeing elements of that formal plan consistently receiving funding.

"This is a very robust program of improvements that are to the point of getting funded and actively in final stages of design and even construction," Lombardo said.

Lombardo received a text message from former council member Greg Heiple, who is also a former chairman of the bicycle advisory committee, last week with a photo of the bike lane along Brooke Street and said, "Who would've thought in 1995 that we would have this in Norman. I love it."

Hal Cantwell, chairman of the city's bicycle advisory committee and the Bicycle League of Norman president, said he's only heard positive feedback and excitement from committee members on the multimodal path's progress.

Due to a recent injury he hasn't used the completed section of the multimodal path. Cantwell said he saw the presentation, construction and completed path and thinks the continued mile-by-mile progress is positive.

He said it would be great to see the projects progress faster than they do, but he knows the system and understands it's a combination of the city working with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

Cantwell said a lot of members in the cycling community ride their bikes together to Oklahoma City for occasional doughnuts and then ride the paths around there. To have all of those paths connected into one system is something Cantwell and the rest of cycling community is looking forward to.

"Some cities have had that and grow and do have that, but it will be an amazing opportunity for cycling in Norman," Cantwell said.

Katie Standlee366-3544Follow me @katiestandleekstandlee@normantranscript.com

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