Farmington MPO solicits public input on bicycle, pedestrian master plan update

Residents invited to take online survey and respond to interactive maps

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • MPO officials hope to complete the process of updating the plan by the end of next summer.
  • They held an open house on Nov. 7 at the Farmington Civic Center to solicit public input for the plan.
  • To take the MPO survey or enter comments on the interactive map, visit https://bit.ly/fmpobikeped.

FARMINGTON — San Juan County residents who regularly rely on nonmotorized forms of transportation are being encouraged to provide their input for a survey that gauges their feelings about local bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

The effort is being mounted by the Farmington Metropolitan Planning Organization, a regional group responsible for transportation planning for the communities of Aztec, Bloomfield, Farmington, Kirtland and other urbanized areas of San Juan County. The MPO is in the process of updating its bicycle and pedestrian master plan, a process that is likely to be completed by the summer of 2023, according to Peter Koeppel, an officer with the organization.

Koeppel and other officials were in attendance at the Farmington Civic Center on the evening of Nov. 7 as the MPO held an open house to promote its efforts to solicit public input on the plan. Residents were invited to share their thoughts on the state of current pedestrian and bicycle routes, and how they might be improved in the future.

Koeppel said San Juan County municipalities generally have done a good job in recent years of adding dedicated bike lanes during their resurfacing projects, especially the City of Farmington. But he said there remains a lack of dedicated bicycle and pedestrian routes linking those municipalities, as well as routes linking neighborhoods to cycling and hiking trails.

Visitors examine maps and other displays at the Farmington Civic Center on Nov. 7 during an open house presented by the Farmington Metropolitan Planning Organization as part of its effort to update its master plan for pedestrian and bicycle routes.

The increased interest San Juan County municipalities have shown in recent years in building an outdoor recreation-based economy has lent some urgency to this effort, Koeppel noted, adding that the public seems generally supportive of the effort, as well.

“We’ve certainly had no pushback. We’ve only gotten positive feedback so far,” he said.

Aaron Sussman of the Toole Design Group, the national design firm hired by the Farmington MPO to help put together the updated master plan, said one focus of the effort likely will be to find ways to encourage and enable more bicycle usage by those who use that mode of transportation only occasionally, as opposed to those who already are hard-core cyclists.

“We want to create options that are low stress for them to do so,” he said.

Koeppel echoed that idea, adding that he believes the number of cyclists in the Farmington area has increased in recent years.

Peter Koeppel

“Anecdotally, that’s the case, although I don’t know if we have the numbers to back that up,” he said. “We want to bridge the gap between recreational cycling and those who use a bike to run errands.”

While the plan was updated only three years ago, Sussman said that such plans need to be updated on a routine basis because priorities change so quickly these days. After public input on the new plan has been gathered, Toole Design Group employees will work with the MPO to identify and prioritize the new goals, generate cost estimates for various projects, then present the plan to municipal governing agencies.

The Farmington Metropolitan Planning Organization wants to hear from users of non-motorized transportation options as they plan for future projects. In this file photo, a man rides his bike over a bridge, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, into Animas Park in Farmington.

He noted that the MPO is a planning agency and does not have the power to implement any recommendations itself. But Koeppel said the MPO has a close relationship with those municipal governments, and he noted the organization’s policy committee already includes elected officials from all the municipalities it represents.

Another factor lending some urgency to this effort is the relative abundance of federal funding that is available for such projects, thanks to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress last year.

“We’re trying to position ourselves for those grants,” Koeppel said, adding that providing better bicycling and pedestrian options for people is also just the right thing to do.

“Everybody walks at some point, and many people bicycle,” he said. “This is definitely the time to be applying for stuff.”

The survey being circulated by the MPO features nine questions that ask respondents how often they walk or use a bicycle, why they walk or bicycle, what their top destinations are, what keeps them from walking or bicycling more often than they do. It also asks them to describe their comfort level in regard to walking or bicycling in certain situations, such as sidewalks or bike lanes adjacent to vehicular traffic, paved trails or unpaved trails.

A display at a Nov. 7 Farmington Metropolitan Planning Organization open house at the Farmington Civic Center gauges the concerns of local residents in regard to specific pedestrian situations.

An additional eight questions are geared toward e-bike usage and demographic information.

To take the MPO survey or enter comments on the interactive map, visit https://bit.ly/fmpobikeped. Koeppel said the survey will remain open for at least several weeks, if not longer.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 ormeasterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.