For years now the entrance to Moab at the Colorado River Bridge has been a vast construction site, but that will all change by this fall. UPR’s Jon Kovash reports.
It’s a $20 million project that will result in a new park and bicycle transit center, and three miles of bike path going up the Colorado River Canyon. Summer Roefaro is a transportation engineer and visiting bike scholar helping oversee things, and said he has a vision for the center.
“Soon we’ll be able to actually bike over the Colorado River, or parallel the Colorado River, and that bike path is probably going to be quite spectacular. And so it’s an opportunity for visitors to still see Moab, but through their bicycle instead of a car,” Roefaro said.
It’s all part of a master bicycle plan that, during the last 15 years, has been developed by local volunteers. Roefaro said the idea is to make visiting cyclists traffic reducers instead of traffic increasers.
“For me my main focus was that the connection really starts in Moab, and how the assets that are there in Moab be promoted and encouraged in such a way that the trip can actually start from Moab, and start out of your vehicle,” Roefaro said.
Roefaro said that in a town where a third of residents can’t drive, bikes become an even more vital transit component.
“It’s a shift in the way you think about bicycles. You have to view bicycles as being a legitimate form of transportation,” Roefaro said. “The level of planning and the policies that are in place for vehicles need to be also in place for bicycle use. You can’t just put down a bicycle path. It has to be viewed as a network, just like there’s a network for vehicles.”
Rebecca Andrus works at the Moab City Engineer’s office to help with the nuts and bolts of the emerging two-wheel transit system.
“Bikes and cars don’t always work together sometimes, so trying to create facilities that can work for bikes, can work for cars, can work for pedestrians, it’s a trick,” Andrus said. “So we’re trying to make it more of a design scenario where we actually plan it.”
The new transit hub will help encourage visitors to cycle instead of drive to Moab’s vast and growing network of paved and single-track trails, Andrus said.
“There are a lot of businesses that already provide shuttles to various locations. They meet at their business or somewhere to gather people and get the bikes and take them out to places like Porcupine Rim or up to Dead Horse Point,” Andrus said. “So there’s a lot of different companies that already do this, and the transit hub would help as kind of a meeting point, a place for people to park their vehicles.”
Fearful of losing market share to places like Fruita, Colorado, Moab has embarked on an unprecedented building boom for bike paths and trails, largely with federal and state funds.
“If you count the transit hub, Lions Park, the car bridge, the path up the canyon, the path up to Arches, if you’re counting everything, we’re talking more like 80 to 90 million,” Andrus said.
For lack of much more modest sums of money, Moab still lacks mass transit: Arches National Park has abandoned plans for a park shuttle that would have cost $3 million a year to operate. The town itself lacks a shuttle, which one study says would cost only a half a million a year. And plans have been scrubbed for bus service from Salt Lake City, for lack of another half million per year, to the chagrin of Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison.
“I really would like to see that come to fruition, and I think that’s going to happen,” Sakrison said. “Unfortunately, UDOT and the federal government got involved, and now we’re going back out and starting from square one. But I really want to see a shuttle system in the community. That’s what my hopes and druthers would be, that we connect Spanish Valley, maybe even Castle Valley with a transit system.”
Meanwhile, the town plans an education campaign to make visitors aware that they can bicycle directly to many of the remoter trails, without the need of vehicles. Sakrison said the hope is that in the meantime existing tour operators will help fill in the breach.
“I think that opens the door for private enterprise to maybe do that, work in conjunction with the Park Service on a shuttle system,” Sakrison said. “The tour companies do have a sizeable investment in the buses they are operating, the river companies and the tour companies that are going out. So maybe they can see this as an opportunity.”