Today, let’s follow up on the letter from Gary McGregor, published by Atchison Globe this past Wednesday, expressing concern about the Riverfront Trail Project.

This is exactly the type of issue I started this column to address. If you have anything that concerns you or doesn’t seem to make sense, reach out and I’ll be happy to respond. From the letter:

My thoughts on the partially completed “sidewalk/trail” project near Independence park ... First of all, I like the concept of providing a place for citizens to walk for exercise and recreation. I do, however, question most of the work that has been done.

First and most grievous is the manner in which a bottleneck has been created on the river road. It is both awkward and dangerous. Additionally, why is the lighting on the opposite of the road from the sidewalk? And finally, the proximity to the Maczuk facility seems to make an uninviting place to walk.

I encourage our citizens and city officials and planners to revisit this project and correct the glaring inadequacies that exist.

Gary, thanks for the note. This is a timely issue, since there have been several misconceptions surrounding this project.

The first thing I want to address is that this wasn’t designed as an anti-farmer, anti-trucker, or anti-American project. The Riverfront area is one of the most utilized and scenic parts of Atchison. They say people vote with their feet. More and more people have been using the trail, and the city responded to that endorsement by using a grant to extend one of our most popular public spaces.

That a bottleneck has been created is one of the most common complaints I’ve heard surrounding Riverfront Road. The facts don’t back this up. Before construction, the road width was 22 feet, 4 inches wide at its narrowest point. After construction, the road is 23 feet wide at its most narrow point. The real difference is perception. Before, there was gravel parking along the east side of the road, and now there is a trail immediately adjoining the road.

This makes the road feel more narrow and causes drivers to slow down, even though the lanes are wider than the 11-foot engineering standard. Similar to how you drive slower on Third Street, compared to Harper, even though the speed limit is the same for both.

Next spring, the road should get a fresh coat of asphalt (pending commission approval) that will bring the road surface up to level with the concrete curbs. This will help the road feel a little wider. With the flooding on the Missouri River, this project was pushed back, and for now, it is too cold to lay the asphalt.

You mention the lighting being on the opposite side of the road from the trail. The lights predated the trail extension, and moving them was never a strong option due to cost. Originally, we looked at putting the trail on the west side of the road to take advantage of the lights and stay further away from MacZuk’s. Unfortunately, over the last 164 years, ownership of the land below the bluff has become such a tangled mess that land acquisition was next to impossible.

As the use of the riverfront changes, I understand there will be frustrations. Atchison is constantly changing and working to improve. This area used to be a rail line with no road access. When the original Riverfront Park plans were announced, the city was met with doubts and frustrations. Now it’s a beautiful park that sees thousands of visitors every year.

This addition may not be perfect, but it makes the best use of our existing space.

Shawn Rizza has served on the City of Atchison City Commission since January 2018, following his election to a four-year term in November 2017. His colleagues appointed him as mayor for 2019 at the beginning of this year.

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