Somerset County ‘Walk, Bike, Hike’ Project Brought Out For Public Review And Comment

The Franklin Township portion of the proposed “Walk, Bike, Hike” map.

SOMERVILLE – With a labyrinth of proposed bike lanes and shared use paths, Franklin Township figures to play a large role in Somerset County’s “Walk, Bike, Hike Somerset County” plan.

The plan, still in its early stages, outlines the first stage of upgrades and redesigns for the county’s trails and bike systems, according to a press release about the meeting.

The plan as it now stands was introduced and discussed at an April 11 meting in the Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders’ meeting room in the borough.

The plan seeks to create a network of existing trails, green spaces and bicycle lanes, and add to that more bicycle lanes where appropriate, to connect recreation and other sites throughout the county.

Hosted by Freeholder Brian Gallagher, the meeting was an attempt to bring county residents and planning officials together “to create a framework, a plan, a vision, for how we’re going to connect all of our people, all of our communities, all of our sites, all of our recreation,” Gallagher said.

“The whole goal here is to try to connect,” he said. “We are in the process of making Somerset County a place like no other.”

County Planner Walter Lane said the meeting was the beginning of the journey.

A study paid for by the New Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, and begun just about a year ago, “looked at all the county roads and looked at where it made the most sense for bike lanes on-road and off-road, and the trail connections,” he said. Some of the projects “we might be able to implement right away, some might take some more time to implement,” he said.

“Some may be county projects, some may be municipal projects, some may be joint county-municipal projects,” Lane said.

Outside the Freeholders’ meeting room, arranged on a number of tables were maps of each town in the county showing where existing and proposed trails and bike lanes are located.

There were also larger county maps on easels to show the plans in the context of the entire county.

Comments were able to be written on the maps as well as a larger white board that was also displayed on an easel.

People were encouraged to comment because the county “wanted to make sure that we had your feedback on the recommendations that we developed and look how we can refine that,” Lane told the crowd.

Among  the suggestions for Franklin Township are:

A dedicated bike lane along Elizabeth Avenue, from the South Bound Brook border to Amwell Road.

A dedicated bike lane alomng DeMott Lane from Amwell Road to the Ellison Road area.

A dedicated bike lane along New Brunswick Road, from John F. Kennedy Boulevard to Mettlers Road.

A buffered bike lane – with a physiucal barrier between cars and bicycles – along Amwell Road, from East Millstone to approximately Van Cleef Road.

Dedicated bike lanes on Vliet and South Middlebush roads, from Route 27 to Claremont Road, where they would connect with a trail.

Gallagher said that thes eplans need to be also take to their respective towns’ givernment and planning boards for incoporation into their Master Plans.

“While we’ll take this and we’ll incorporate this as a part of our plans, there’s a responsibility now for all of your municipalities,” he said. “It’s their job then, to also take this plan, bring it back to your planning boards and your mayors and councils, and say here folks, digest this. How can we make our municipality better and also incorporate it into the other communities, and that’s what starts to create that interconnectivity.”

Among Franklin Township residents and officials attending the meeting were Chris Kelly, chairman of the Somerset County Open Space Advisory Committee. Kelly said the project as it relates to the township was “very comprehensive.”

“Franklin seems to be one of the largest opportunity areas targeted,” he said. “The north-south corridor is on the list as well as prepping for an influx of college students and getting seniors out and about. Connecting cultural and historic landmarks as well as schools, transport hubs, shopping for bringing tourism up is a part as well. This takes commuting into account as well as recreation and safety.”

“It’s a great framework and hopefully town will not let it sit on a shelf when complete,” he said. “Many of the ideas are simple and low-cost. Can be implemented as road construction, repairs that are underway, and some require nothing more than signage.”


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