New BRATS hub approved in Fairhope

By Cliff McCollum
Posted 8/9/17

Fairhope is moving forward with a new BRATS hub near the city’s parking garage, a long-discussed plan that is now coming to fruition.

Fairhope’s Economic and Community Development Director …

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New BRATS hub approved in Fairhope

Posted

Fairhope is moving forward with a new BRATS hub near the city’s parking garage, a long-discussed plan that is now coming to fruition.

Fairhope’s Economic and Community Development Director Sherry-Lea Bloodworth Botop said a lot of factors have played into the project finally moving forward.

“In meeting with the Bike and Pedestrian Committee, some of the feedback I got early on was that we had bike paths stopping in the middle of intersections and streets, which is certainly unsafe,” Botop said. “They started questioning me right away about when is this going to be finished and how are we going to get the bike paths completed, when we were going to get bike racks and that sort of thing.”

Botop said she started to look at the best ways to try to make funding for those projects happen.

“So, in doing that, serving on the Metropolitan Planning Organization board as the mayor’s proxy, one of the things I realized is that you could get funding for bike paths and walking paths within a half mile walking distance from a BRATS stop and three miles for biking,” Botop said. “We kind of started working backwards and worked with the MPO to get the GIS mapping of all the incomplete paths throughout the city.”

Botop said in going through that process, the city discovered several grant opportunities through the MPO and federal and state sources that could help.

“There were two things that came up,” Botop said. “One was a PL grant, which is for planning, specifically for way finding and pedestrian safety downtown. And then we started to pick up again on conversations on where we could locate another BRATS hub.”

Botop was quick to praise the work of city staff members from previous years who helped the city get to this point.

“A lot of work was done before I got here,” Botop said. “Fairhope was the first to get ‘Complete Streets’ designation, which was huge and that was done before my time. It helped us immensely to have things already set up for us to be able to move forward so quickly.”

Botop said there was talk about the museum being a possible location, but said conversations with the council led to the realization that the parking garage could be a good structure for a possible location.

“It makes perfect sense,” Botop said. “We had a couple of meetings with the MPO and with BRATS and decided that the parking garage would be a perfect spot.”

Botop said there were issues with the garage, primarily that many people still aren’t aware of its location.

“Most people cannot find it,” Botop said. “People aren’t drawn to it even if they do find it, especially at night. The PL grant will help with that, as it will help us develop and get some way finding signage and also implement some pedestrian safety tools.”

Botop said the PL grant is for $30,000 and will be well used to direct people to both the parking garage and downtown merchants.

Botop said the application for the BRATS hub at the garage has also been approved by BRATS and the MPO.

“It’s going to go right up against the garage,” Botop said. “Some of the $250,000 in funds will also be used to do landscaping, new lighting and make that area more of a pedestrian and vehicular corridor. We want to do more like other cities are doing and utilize those alleyways as public spaces, too. We’re looking at that whole area in a different way.”

Botop said the the third part to the project is a potential $100,000 grant for two electric shuttles.

“We will have the shuttles to transport people from the hub to different destinations around town,” Botop said. “Long term, I see this as something that as we continue to work on our vision for a working waterfront, marina, shops - I see this as something we can expand on and help alleviate traffic.”

Botop said she hoped work would begin as soon as later this year.

“The PL grant has already been approved,” Botop said. “I’d like to see way finding by year’s end, and we’ll have all of the information required by ALDOT for their part in this soon, so I’m hoping we can start work on the other portions of this as soon as 2018.”