Bike path, lighting may be sought for peninsula town

Jack Durham
Mad River Union

MANILA – Humboldt County Public Works and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) are teaming up to apply for a grant that could bring major pedestrian and bicycle improvements to the sandy outpost of Manila.

Ideas for improving safety in Manila include building a Class 1 trail – separated from traffic – through the peninsula town, installing colorized bicycle lanes on either side of State Route 255 and putting lighting at the intersection of the highway, Pacific Avenue and Dean Avenue.

RIDING IN THE RED One option being considered is creating bicycle lanes on either side of State Route 255 and coloring them red like the lane shown in this photo.                      Caltrans photo

RIDING IN THE RED One option being considered is creating bicycle lanes on either side of State Route 255 and coloring them red like the lane shown in this photo. Caltrans photo

The proposal was discussed at the Feb. 19 meeting of the Manila Community Services District (Manila CSD) Board of Directors, which oversees sewer, water and parks in the unincorporated community.

County Public Works has jurisdiction over the roads in Manila, while Caltrans is responsible for State Route 255, which intersects and divides the coastal community.

Caltrans Engineer Brian Simon explained to the board that his agency is working with Public Works to apply for grant funding through the Active Transportation Program. That money is earmarked for non-motorized transportation and safety improvements.

The grant application is due in the next couple of months. If it’s successful, funding could be available by the end of the year.

Before submitting the grant application, Caltrans will hold a public workshop – tentatively scheduled for the end of this month or early April – in Manila.

Simon told the board that Caltrans and the county are looking at a variety of improvement options. One is to build a Class 1 path separated from traffic, similar to the Hammond Trail in McKinleyville, through town. The path would “meander through the corridor” and would have to avoid wetlands and other obstacles.

The State Route 255 Engineered Feasibility Study, completed in 2012, states that the path would be located on the west side of the highway and would cost about $1.2 million to $2.5 mllion depending on its length.

Another option is to have Class 2 bicycle lanes on both sides of State Highway 255 from the Mad River Slough bridge to the Samoa Bridges. Simon said the lanes could be colorized, like the ones on U.S. Highway 101 north of Eureka. Either red or green is an option, he said.

In order to improve night crossings of the highway, another idea is to install lighting at the intersection of Highway 255, Dean Street and Pacific Avenue.

Caltrans and the county have also enlisted the help of the Redwood Community Action Agency to find out the needs of children and others who travel to and from Redwood Coast Montessori, which leases space at the Manila Community Center at 1611 Peninsula Dr. The area has no sidewalks, other than a tiny strip in front of a new home that was recently built. The engineers will look at options for improving pedestrian travel on this and other county roads in Manila.

Hank Seemann, deputy director of environmental services for Public Works, said that the entire project, and the grant application, are “a work in progress.”

A board member asked Simon if the bicycle lanes could be extended all the way to Jackson Ranch Road. This would make it easier for bicyclists to get to Arcata, as there is barely a shoulder on the highway between the bridge and Jackson Ranch Road.

Simon said that the engineers could look into this, but noted that the stretch of roadway poses a difficult engineering challenge.

“It’s tough out there because there’s such a narrow right-of-way,” Simon said. There are also ditches on either side of the road. “It’s a tough task,” he said.

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