Transportation council considers signing on to national bicycle route

Transportation council considers signing on to national bicycle route project

WENATCHEE — The Chelan-Douglas Transportation Council largely deals with the movement of car traffic around the Wenatchee Valley. Tomorrow, however, they’re scheduled to consider whether to join a national network of bicycle routes.

The U.S. Bicycle Route System is still in its formative stages, but it promises to be immense. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the nonprofit Adventure Cycling are in charge of mapping out a system of touring bicycle routes that would stretch from coast to coast.

Jeff Wilkens, executive director of the Chelan-Douglas Transportation Council, says his members will vote Thursday on whether the two counties should become part of the project.

“We have a mandate to think about long-range planning and long-range needs for the two county area here, for all forms of transportation,” Wilkens says. “So we’re involved in freight and rail, even commercial air services, anything transportation-related. Most of what people see is the emphasis on road and bridge projects.”

In Washington, the USBRS already encompasses parts of the North Cascades Highway system, and extends from Bellingham to the Idaho Panhandle. But ASHTO’s first step in building new parts of the route is to reach out to local transportation planners, asking for their preliminary endorsement of the idea. That’s the vote being considered on Thursday.

“The work Chelan-Douglas Transportation Council’s been doing around bicycle transportation and bicycle safety hasn’t really been all that focused on this U.S. bike touring route initiative,” Wilkens says. “But I think it’s one that’s recommended to the board that we would accommodate with this resolution.”

Any formal designation could be years away, and specific USBRS routes in the Valley haven’t been scouted. But if adoption moves forward into future phases, Wilkens says it could put the Wenatchee Valley on the map, literally.

“We already see a lot of bicycle tourists on our highways and city streets and county roads, passing through the region,” Wilkens says. “So it’s not necessarily creating something that doesn’t already exist in the region. I think there’s generally already a pretty high level of interest in cycling in this part of the state, this part of the country.”