Residents will have a chance to weigh in on a draft of The Woodlands Township’s bike and pedestrian master plan during a two-week comment period in September.

After nearly a year of work on the project, representatives with engineering firm Jones and Carter presented the initial draft plan to the township’s board of directors July 21.

The plan is the first of its kind for the township and identifies project and program recommendations to be carried out over the next 20 years totaling more than $53 million. It also recommends more than 20 short-term projects that compose $8 million of the total.

“For many years, the pathway system [in The Woodlands] has been fantastic,” said Chelsea Young, project manager for Jones and Carter. “However, the township staff has received some requests for gaps in the system or things to make improvements on the already-great pathway system.”

Young described five fast-track projects included in the plan that address safety or connectivity issues and total about $1.4 million. Township staff was directed to return in August with short-term project ideas for 2017 budget discussions.

One of the fast-track projects includes the development of a bicycle lane along a 4-mile stretch of Lake Woodlands Drive from Lake Front Circle to Kuykendahl Road at a cost of $250,000.

“As it is now, the shoulders [on Lake Woodlands Drive] are pretty decent, but there are those [curb extensions] that get in the way and don’t make it possible for someone to ride their bike without getting into lanes of traffic,” Young said. “This [project] would allow striping so cyclists can be on the road with traffic.”

Other fast-track projects include a shopping center pathway gap on the southwest corner of Research Forest Drive and Kuykendahl Road; a school access gap along the south side of Research Forest Drive to access Powell Elementary School and The Woodlands High School; and side paths that lead to the Sterling Ridge Park and Ride.

The most costly fast-track project would improve connectivity to and from Harper’s Landing. The $740,000 project would provide a connection to the portion of The Woodlands that is located on the east side of I-45.

Although the plan also includes long-term recommendations, it only takes into account present-day traffic conditions in The Woodlands, Young said.

Township Director John McMullan said he has concerns regarding future traffic patterns in The Woodlands if roadways like Woodlands Parkway and Branch Crossing Drive are extended in the future.

“[Those proposed road extensions] are going to drive more traffic into The Woodlands,” McMullan said. “If you drive more traffic into The Woodlands, then more traffic is going to be on some of the roads you’ve recommended for bike lanes. In particular, I noticed Branch Crossing is recommended for a bike lane.”

Young said the plan uses a formula called the bicycle compatibility index, which helps determine which roadways could be more accommodating to a cyclist. She also added the plan is designed to be amended.

“There are no bike lane recommendations along Woodlands Parkway because we already know that’s a traffic nightmare, as well as other major thoroughfares,” she said. “That [project] on the map, you don’t have to do it. If it doesn’t make sense, then there are alternate routes. The recommendations we have here are for you guys to give a thumbs up or thumbs down.”

After soliciting additional feedback from the board of directors and residents over the coming weeks, the plan will be up for approval this fall. For more information on the plan and the upcoming public comment period, see the Aug. 11 edition of Community Impact Newspaper.