March 24, 2012 in Washington Voices

Sidewalk improvements will increase access

Grants through STA, schools target unsafe areas
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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The city of Spokane Valley is working with the Spokane Transit Authority on sidewalks and bus shelters, and also with local school districts to decide the placement of new sidewalks as part of the Safe Routes to School program.

STA received a federal grant to pay for its projects, which are designed to enhance public transportation for the disabled. The number of projects has been cut back, senior capital projects engineer Steve Worley told the City Council on Tuesday.

“The amount of funding we actually received was less than we applied for,” he said. “We let STA make those decisions.”

New sidewalks will be added on Park Road between Eighth and 12th avenues and on Montgomery Drive from University to Van Marter roads. New bus shelters, curb ramps and other accessibility improvements will be located all over the city, including several near the Spokane Valley Mall. The council is expected to give final approval to an agreement with STA at Tuesday’s council meeting.

City staff identified three sidewalk projects to submit for grant funding under the Safe Routes to Schools program, said Public Works Director Neil Kersten. “We think these are the highest priorities,” he said.

The projects include Bowdish Road from Eighth to 12th avenues, and Park Road from Sinto to Indiana avenues and from Marietta to Buckeye avenues.

Sidewalks are particularly needed on Bowdish, Kersten said. “That is a very narrow section of road,” he said. “There really isn’t room for pedestrians, period, along that section.”

The grant would fully fund the projects, but if the city is willing to provide as little as 5 percent in matching funds the projects will score higher and will have a better chance of being funded, Kersten said.

“I see you’re concentrating on the elementary schools first and then moving on to the middle schools,” Mayor Tom Towey said.

Road rehab

In other business Tuesday, the council had a final review of the city’s proposed pavement management plan before members are scheduled to vote on it at Tuesday’s meeting. The plan lays out the conditions of city streets and how much the city would have to spend each year in preservation, rehabilitation and reconstruction projects. The city is facing a funding shortfall of $11 million per year to pay for needed road projects. The city’s annual revenue dedicated to street projects is $2.3 million plus whatever grants the city gets.

The good news is the estimated reconstruction costs of $2.5 million per year for arterials and $1.7 million per year for residential streets will go away within six years if the city sticks with the plan, Kersten said.

The city is also ready to take another look at chip-sealing roads to help extend their life, Kersten said. The process involves spraying streets with a thin layer of asphalt and adding small rocks. “We have done some quite a few years in the past,” he said. “We have had some complaints.” The complaints usually involve cracked windshields caused by the rocks that break loose and fly up. Chip-sealing a road also makes for a rougher ride than pure asphalt.

Kersten said he plans to try using smaller rocks and wants to chip-seal a section of Barker Road between the Spokane River bridge and Trent Avenue next year.

“I really believe we’re in a critical stage,” said Councilman Chuck Hafner. “We really haven’t gotten ahead of the problem.” Still, Hafner said, he didn’t think it was possible to fully fund the plan. “We know we can’t fund the whole $10 million. That’s ridiculous.”

But the city should do as much as it can, he said. “We need to seriously consider taking every revenue source we have and putting it toward street preservation,” he said.

“We have to think outside the box,” Councilman Arne Woodard said. “The box is not working.”


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