Friday, July 13, 2007

Bellevue?s Safe Routes program delayed

Design and construction on hold for ITD

Express Staff Writer

Once the hope of city officials, it now looks unlikely that Bellevue will be able to complete installation of its Safe Routes to School program before the start of the 2008 school year.

Jason Miller, representing KART and Wood River Rideshare, spoke to the Bellevue City Council Tuesday, July 10, explaining that the Idaho Transportation Department has yet to finalize its design guidelines, a process that could last until this fall or even into the next calendar year.

In June, Bellevue received a $94,494 reimbursement grant from ITD to improve the walking and cycling paths leading to Bellevue Elementary School.

"It probably won't get accomplished before school starts," Planning and Zoning Administrator Craig Eckles said.

Initially, City Administrator Tom Blanchard said the city was aiming to begin construction of the path, which would run along Cedar Street from Main Street to the school, in August in order to have it ready by the beginning of the school year.

Traffic consultant Lori Labrum said that although the city will have to follow ITD's design parameters, as it's supplying the majority of the funds, the city should be proactive and decide on a design it finds most beneficial to the city.

"I recommend we throw it in their lap and let them respond rather than wait for ITD," Labrum said.

The grant, however, will only fund construction, meaning Bellevue will have to include the design and engineering of the project in next year's budget.

At the meeting, Labrum also presented a number of different options of street design for the entire city, opening the discussion of the desired street standards that the city should meet when making improvements in the future.

While no decisions were made, council members made it clear that multi-modal pathways accommodating pedestrians and cycle commuters are a priority, as well as the inclusion of traffic-calming measures. Possibilities for addressing the latter concern including the incorporation of raised crosswalks at intersections on Main Street and building wider sidewalks throughout the city.

People attending the meeting expressed concern over how the projects were going to be funded, asking if such improvements would weigh into the council's decision to approve the annexations that are currently before the city.

"None of this is based on annexation," Eckles said. "It's simply based on the goals for our city as it expands."

Eckles said he will give the council's recommendations to Labrum and Dan Coonce, who works for the transportation consulting firm Transpo Group, and resume the discussion at a later date.

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