130 turn out for meeting on Archer Braid Trail


Published: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 at 10:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 at 10:50 p.m.

Kristen Young calls herself a cyclist, always running errands or enjoying the outdoors. If her cat would stay in her basket, she would bike him to the vet.

However, she doesn't ride on the paths in her Haile Plantation neighborhood.

"They're not built for that," she said. "I don't feel safe."

To help, the county is proposing the Archer Braid Trail, a multi-use path intended to cut through the sprawling Haile development.

The plan, originating from a plan developed in 2000, was discussed at a public workshop attended by about 130 people Tuesday night at Kanapaha Middle School. Meetings like this generally attract a maximum of 20 people, Public Works employee Michael Fey said.

County Commissioner Susan Baird said she was not surprised by the turnout, because Haile Plantation is a very tight-knit community.

Officials from the Alachua County Growth Management Department showed 30 percent design plans, which Transportation Planning Manager Jeff Hays explained is a conceptual design for the path, showing the location of the second phase of the project.

It is planned to run along 91st Street to 46th Boulevard and then continue up Tower Road. The project will create paths wide enough to accommodate both pedestrians and bikers while helping with sight issues, Hays said.

"It'll be more of a commuter facility," Hays said. "Haile is one of those attractors, one of those large areas of population."

The project is currently estimated to cost around $1.2 million, Hays said. The county has received $1.5 million in grant funding from the Florida Department of Transportation.

An alternate route is also proposed, avoiding Haile Plantation entirely and going straight from Archer Road to Tower Road. While he said he was uncertain of the exact cost, Hays estimated this route would cost about $600,000.

Haile Plantation residents were split about the issue, with more than 20 citizens offering their comments.

Steve Hagen and his wife believe the path is a great addition to the community. Hagen said the concern with aesthetics and buffers from homes are major improvements.

"The trail system we already have is one of the best amenities we have in Haile."

Brenda Breil agreed, explaining that the path will be beneficial to families.

"I think it's overdue," she said. "The money's here now."

However, other residents expressed concern about the cost of the project, wondering about the redundancy of building a path where some already exist.

Baird, owner of three properties in the neighborhood, said despite uncertainty of the necessity, the County Commission would most likely approve the path. The important question is which route is best, she said.

"If commuting is the intention, Archer is the best route," she said. "But if it's for recreation, Haile Plantation is the better choice."

Other issues discussed were the safety of the path and the financial obligation of upkeep for Haile Plantation residents.

The first phase is a path from the City of Archer to Archer Road, funded entirely by the Department of Transportation. Construction will begin within the year.

The information gathered from the workshop will be brought to the Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization Advising Committee this week. Then the information will be discussed by the County Commission and the MTPO, a group consisting of Gainesville city commissioners and Alachua County commissioners.

If the project is approved, construction will begin next year.

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