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Planning Director's Blog - July 2015

Last Updated on Aug 28, 2015 at 10:04am | Department of Planning & Land Management

The focus of this month’s blog is on Chapter 6: Transportation Element.  The purpose of the Transportation Element is to identify transportation improvements and policies that are needed to support planned land uses and improve the function and safety of the transportation system.  The focus of a sustainable transportation system is multi-modal, which means it encompasses multiple forms of transportation – pedestrian, bicycle, transit, automobile and air.
 
The stated transportation goal for the 2008 Comprehensive Plan is to:
Plan and build a balanced, efficient transportation system to meet the mobility needs of residents and businesses and to support the County’s growth as a vacation destination.
 
As with other topics within the Comprehensive Plan this chapter first assesses existing facilities, evaluates deficiencies within the existing system and then suggests recommendations to aid with those deficiencies and accommodate for predicted future growth.  Though this chapter is most useful in providing an overview of the system and serves as a basis for planning, the County has been exploring the possibility of creating a Garrett County Transportation Plan, which would explore the system in more detail, involve more focused public input and include planning with a broader perspective.  The value of a good transportation system, especially in relation to economic growth, cannot be understated.  If funds can be secured from grant sources the Transportation Plan will become a reality in the future.
 
In the meantime, the Transportation Element within the Comprehensive Plan will serve as the transportation planning mechanism for the County.  In 2008 there were 14 recommended policies and actions.  As with recommendations discussed in other chapters some were adopted and some were not for various reasons.  Those recommendations included amending existing ordinances to give the County authority regarding traffic impact studies, access consolidation and pedestrian facilities, a feasibility study for an alternate north-south route through the county, a study to determine revenue streams necessary for improvements, supporting bike and pedestrian trail design and construction, supporting increased bus service, promoting Scenic Byways and promoting private air charter use and economic development associated with the Airport.
 
Looking to the future, as growth has not and is not expected to reach the levels projected in the 2008 Plan, the focus will be on improving the current system and designing transportation strategies that support citizens, promote economic development and encourage community revitalization.  One major improvement that has consistently been promoted, but has not happened due to costs is increased bus service to residents.  The County is considering holding a Transit Summit to bring citizens together with local, regional and state officials to brainstorm ways to transition the on-demand system now in place to a scheduled route system available to all citizens.  The results of this Summit will feed into the Comprehensive Plan, Transportation Chapter.  The dates of the Summit will be properly announced to ensure community involvement.
 
Another concept to consider is how an improved transportation system can aid in community revitalization.  Residents in all areas of the county, but especially the more remote locations, often struggle maintaining reliable transportation options.  One idea the County is considering is called rural transit oriented development, which would ensure bus and car pooling options are available in all municipalities and certain ‘rural villages’ (unincorporated places like Crellin, Swanton, Jennings and Finzel).  These ‘transit centers’ would be linked to community features via walking and biking paths.  Community features needing access to the transit centers include main streets, schools and low and moderate income housing developments.  This concept is in its infancy and would require local, state and perhaps federal support in order to build a funding stream that will support improvements to rural transportation networks.  However, community input about such a concept is welcome and encouraged during the Comprehensive Planning process as well as during the Transit Summit.
 
Please forward any thoughts or ideas about transportation planning in Garrett County to myself, Deborah Carpenter, Director, Garrett County Planning & Land Management office.  My email is dcarpenter@garrettcounty.org. 
 
Next month’s blog will feature Chapter 7 of the 2008 Comprehensive Plan: Sensitive Areas.