Columbia County Supervisor Kirk Konkel of Portage didn’t say “no” to county endorsement of an interstate bike route that would include the Lodi area, but he expressed plenty of reservations.
The County Board’s Executive Committee on Monday agreed, by unanimous voice vote, to present to the full County Board a resolution favoring Route 30, which in Columbia County would run from the Colsac Ferry landing in the town of West Point along Highway 113, County Highway V and Ryan Road into the city of Lodi, then proceed toward Dane County.
Highway 113, Konkel said, is not a safe place for bicyclists — especially large numbers of bicyclists that he said might converge on the county once Route 30 becomes a reality.
Darrell Lehman, a member of the town of West Point’s Open Spaces Committee, said the county’s endorsement of Route 30, if it were adopted, would apply to Highway V through the unincorporated community of Okee, because that’s the only county road on the proposed route.
Last month, Lehman took the Route 30 proposal to the county’s Silent Sports Trails Committee, which operates under the umbrella of the Columbia County Economic Development Corporation.
At the Silent Sports Trails Committee session in Pardeeville, Lehman explained that the towns of West Point and Lodi and the city of Lodi have already gone on record in favor of Route 30.
If Columbia County does the same, he said, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation will convey the endorsements to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), clearing the way for making Route 30, from Maine to Montana, an official interstate bicycle route.
The interstate bike routes — totaling about 11,000 miles so far — would be a boost to tourism, Lehman said.
“Much like people undertake the Ice Age Trail or the Appalachian Trail,” he siad, “people will experience other areas by bike.”
Konkel said he sees many problems with the proposed route, not the least of which is safety.
“There are no shoulders,” he said. “You’re inviting disaster.”
Lehman said Route 30 might not stay entirely on Highway 113.
As soon as Highway 113 is designated as the route, he said, town of West Point officials will seek grants to convert part of a railroad corridor alongside Highway 113 to a bicycle route in warm weather and a snowmobile trail in cold weather.
If that happens, he said, then Route 30 could be moved at least partly off Highway 113.
In any case, Lehman said, he doesn’t expect that there will be mobs of bicyclists pedaling Route 30 at one time.
CCEDC Executive Director Nancy Elsing distributed information on the impact of tourism on Columbia County’s economy:
In 2015, visitors spent $126 million in Columbia County, a $10.5 million increase over tourist spending in 2014.
State and local sales taxes collected from tourists in Columbia County amounted to $14.6 million in 2015, up 7.3 percent from 2014.
If Route 30 should, for some reason, bypass Columbia County, then the county would miss out on revenues that would come from visiting long-distance bicyclists, she said.
“I’d prefer to have it go through Columbia County,” she said.
Lehman noted that the Highway 113 and other roads along the proposed Route 30 are already open to bicycles, and that designating Route 30 would not entail modifying any of the roadways shared by motorists to accommodate bike lanes, if they don’t already exist.
Konkel said he wasn’t convinced.
“There’s going to be costs to this — maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow,” he said.
The full County Board is expected to take up the Route 30 resolution at its July 20 meeting.