BISBEE — Progress is being made on a proposed plan to construct a multiuse path for pedestrians and cyclists down the mountain and around the Lavender Pit on State Route 80 from the Queen Mine Tour to Erie Street.

This is one part of the overall draft master plan developed in concert with Cochise County. Bisbee Bikeways, a nonprofit dedicated to providing safe travel around the city, was named a stakeholder in the process by the City Council.

There is a narrow sidewalk down the mountain on State Route 80, but pedestrians have to cross the road at one point as the sidewalk ends on one side and starts up on the other. Weeds growing through the fencing along Freeport McMoRan Inc. property and along the edges of the sidewalk can make it a dangerous trek for those who prefer walking or have no choice but to hoof it. The four-lane curvy road also is a perilous traverse for those on two wheels.

This is the first portion of the plan will connect Bisbee’s three boroughs, Old Bisbee, Warren and San Jose. It was initiated by Meggen Connolley, founder of Bisbee Bikeways. After a rather harried trip on her bike with her toddler in tow, she decided the time had come to create a safer ride on Bisbee’s streets. Over the past year she has gathered support from the city council, the county, the state and many Bisbee residents.

A few years ago, the Arizona Department of Transportation installed a bike lane along State Route 92 from Naco Highway to the traffic circle at the intersection with 80. Sidewalks were installed in the vicinity of Naco Highway and State Route 92 to make foot traffic safer at the intersection. Though appreciated by the cycling community, it was not enough for the pedestrians.

In order to create a safe place for anyone with the will to self–motor up the mountain on 80, the first step is to study the roadway and the existing sidewalk and determine if the project is feasible.

Connolley was awarded a $50,000 grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund the study and in December work began by Kimley–Horne, planning and engineering consultants.

Connolley says the study will determine the feasibility of a new pathway that, when implemented, will provide a safe and comfortable facility for residents to walk and bike, improving their health and quality of life. It could also reduce the city’s carbon footprint. The pathway will serve as a catalyst for economic development and adds another aspect of travel for tourists.

The plan calls for removing one of the two southbound travel lanes along State Route 80. The southbound travel lane between Naco Road and Erie Street will be a shared-use path with a buffer area separating the shared use path from traffic lanes.

The preferred alternative will be developed considering traffic and safety impacts on 80, improved comfort of people riding and bicycling, right of way impacts and cost and complexity to construct it.

Kimley–Horne will prepare an inventory summary of State Route 80 within the project limits, identify pathway alignment concepts, evaluate preferred segment for impacts to traffic, safety and environmental considerations, as well as prepare the draft and final report, which is to be completed by June.

To get the community involved, a Zoom meeting will be held on Jan. 15 so the public can ask questions and offer their comments.

Residents are encouraged to view the draft master plan developed by county Planner II Christine McLachlan and offer their comments. This plan as proposed will connect all of Bisbee with secured paths and would include all the way down Naco Highway to Naco, Ariz.

Certain paths could be included in the state’s Sun Corridor, a planned trail that when completed will link Las Vegas to southern Arizona. For the most part, the Sun Corridor will follow abandoned rail lines, McLachlan noted in the draft plan. To the extent possible, the corridor follows abandoned rail lines and a portion of the trail already is proposed to parallel State Route 80 and the Lavender Pit.