The city's Transportation Commission hopes to spend $350,000 to develop a plan for commuter rail, streetcars and other alternative transportation in Ashland, the chairman told planning commissioners Tuesday.

The city's Transportation Commission hopes to spend $350,000 to develop a plan for commuter rail, streetcars and other alternative transportation in Ashland, the chairman told planning commissioners Tuesday.

At least one Planning Commission member, however, questioned the value of spending money on a plan, when there was no money to bring the plans to fruition.

The Transportation Commission hopes to get a $225,000 state grant to update the city's Transportation System Plan, which was created in 1998 and lays out strategies for dealing with traffic issues.

"I know we've got some big things coming up," said Colin Swales, chairman of the Transportation Commission. "This plan will guide new developments that would stop you from moving in the direction that you want to move."

City officials hope to use the grant funds to create emission-free transportation options, according to the grant proposal.

If the city receives the grant funds, it would match them 56 percent, by providing $125,000 for the transportation plan update. City officials should find out before July 1 whether Ashland has received the funds, said Mike Faught, the city's public works director.

Even if Ashland doesn't receive the grant, Faught said, he recommends that the city continue with the two-year project — and foot the entire bill.

"The project is important to the community," he said. "We want to create a transportation system that provides for bike and rail, potentially, and pedestrian paths.

"We really want to look outside the box for solutions in Ashland and not just look at old ways," he said.

If the project moves forward, Planning Commission members would work with the Transportation Commission to develop the new plan, through a public process. Both the Planning Commission and the City Council would need to approve the changes before they go into effect, Faught said.

Planning Commission members had mixed responses to the project.

Commissioner Mike Morris said he was concerned about paying for the new plans when the city had limited funding for any of the improvements that the plans might call for.

"I see a lot of plans and I don't see a lot of them happening," he said. "And what I'm trying to get at is can we find a way of funding those? It's kind of more important than having a plan."

However, commission member Pam Marsh praised the project, saying it felt different than previous attempts to fix the city's transportation problems.

"This feels like a complete changing of policy to me," she said.

"It's just totally refreshing and exciting to hear you talking about all of this."

Hannah Guzik is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 226, or hguzik@dailytidings.com.