Newark's east side might see some bicycle lanes along both sides of East Main Street.

Newark's east side might see some bicycle lanes along both sides of East Main Street.

Planners working with the city on design improvements to the east side and downtown have suggested ways for bicycle riders to make their way through downtown, in an effort to link the bicycle path that stops at Cedar Street and picks up again at the YMCA on Church Street.

"If it requires painting on the street, that's something we could do soon," said Brian Morehead, Newark's engineer. "If it requires lights, curbs or bump-outs, that takes money for design and money for construction."

Planners from the Neighborhood Design Center of Columbus have worked on two Newark projects: the East Side Urban Visioning and Downtown Newark Visioning. Both could include bike-path connections, but the city might need to test some of the suggestions before implementing a final solution, said Albert Berthold, executive director of the Neighborhood Design Center.

"You may want to test East Main Street, between Arch and Cedar streets," Berthold said.

That test could include reducing on-street parking to the south side of East Main Street, adding bump-outs or curbs that border the on-street parking spaces, and designating 4-foot-wide bicycle lanes on both sides of Main Street.

Newark City Councilwoman Irene Kennedy said she supports safer bicycle lanes, especially after being forced off a street recently because of heavy vehicle traffic.

"I think we need ideas to make the city more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly," she said. "I think we'd be smart to start thinking about that now."

Karl Sandin, a Denison University professor and one of the project coordinators for the East Side Urban Visioning project, said the plans still are preliminary. Planners have taken ideas from public workshops and transferred them to paper. Newark City Council and residents would have to review the drawings before any bicycle lanes could be painted on city streets.

Morehead said the city could apply for transportation-enhancement grants through the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to fund projects that are approved. He said applications are due in January. Even if funding is approved, design work and construction documents, which could take three years to complete, must be done prior to construction.

Kennedy said the city needs to start planning for bicycle paths as new projects begin. She mentioned next year's Deo Drive-Waterworks Road alignment project, which includes sidewalks. She asked Morehead if the project could include bicycle paths.

Morehead said it could only if more land is purchased.

One of the positive aspects of testing bicycle lanes on Main Street is that Main Street is wide enough to accommodate 4-foot bicycle lanes on both sides if parking is removed from one side, Sandin said.

Though the East Side Urban Visioning project designs were presented to the public in October 2007, Sandin said he has raised $5,500 since then to get more specific drawings for East Main Street. He said planners and city representatives need to talk to business owners and residents to get their opinions on the plans. Individual business needs would be considered in the planning process, he said.

Sandin said residents and businesses asked for safer bicycle paths and safer ways for people in wheelchairs to travel along Main Street. He said these suggestions would be the answer to those requests.

"The people spoke, and these (plans) were crafted as an answer to take back to the community," Sandin said.

The east-side bike-path connection ties in with the downtown visioning project because the connection likely would be through downtown, Berthold said, adding that several areas in downtown Newark would be conducive to accepting bicycle traffic, such as Canal Street.

"The route that seems to make the most sense is south from here (The Works) down Canal Street and over to Church," he said.

He said the area around Canal Street has fewer buildings and could help bring cyclists into downtown to businesses.

"You don't benefit from bicyclists if you can't get them here," Berthold said.

The East Side Urban Visioning project was funded partially by Denison University and partially through donations. Newark funded the Downtown Visioning project to tie in with ODOT's plans for reworking entrances and exits to state Route 16 at Fourth Street.

Both projects included the Neighborhood Design Center, which employs Ohio State University students who are completing their college schooling.

The East Main Street Urban Visioning program was completed in October 2007. The final results included returning the area to a "Little New Orleans" style, with balconies on the second story of many existing buildings, iron fencing near buildings and along sidewalks to project more of a streetscape.The downtown Newark visioning program included Fourth Street at state Route 16 and the south entrance to the downtown on state Route 13. Planners also considered destination routes, like roads that lead to the Licking County courthouse.

Plans presented last week suggest making parking lots more visible, screening parking areas from streets and making the city more pedestrian-friendly by adding street trees and benches. Bicycle lanes could be added on wider streets, and entrances to the city could be dressed up with lighting and messages to welcome people.

Planners suggested using overpasses on state Route 16 to invite motorists into the city and posting banners on downtown light poles to alert visitors of coming events to bring them back to town.

Rail trestles on the south side of downtown could be made safer with brighter lights in the underpasses and colorful painting under and across the trestles, planners have said.

Morehead said the city has $200,000 from state funding to make improvements at Fourth Street and state Route 16. He said those upgrades could be a start for future improvements in the downtown area.

The city would have to apply for more grant money to make future improvements as suggested in the plan or consider placing some of the downtown in a tax-increment-financing district (TIF), which diverts money from new developments to a fund that could be used for infrastructure improvements.