Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A sidewalk runs through it

Bellevue seeks compromise on Safe Routes plan

Express Staff Writer

Bellevue's sidewalk designs for Fifth and Cedar streets will likely take a few more turns before the city decides where the sidewalks will be built. Those turns will have to accommodate roads that were built off-center of the city's rights of way many years ago.

"Just because the roads were laid down wrongly in the first place doesn't justify us doing the same thing again with the sidewalks," City Administrator Tom Blanchard said during a City Council meeting Thursday, April 24.

Blanchard recommended that the sidewalk setbacks be measured from either the surveyed center line of the city's 80-foot rights-of-way, or from the edge of surveyed property lines.

Original road construction in the city took into account neither, leaving some residents with more front yard than others. Some residents are closer to the street than they would like to be, given that the new sidewalks will encroach on their properties.

The sidewalks are planned as part of the city's Safe Routes to Schools program and are intended to provide pedestrian safety for schoolchildren walking and biking to Bellevue Elementary School. They also mark the first step in developing street design standards under the city's 25-year transportation master plan.

David Campbell, who headed up a citizens committee last month to find a compromise sidewalk- design plan, said some residents will find the sidewalks "close to their front doorsteps" if the city measures from the surveyed center line, rather than from the roadway edge.

"In other places the sidewalks will land in the existing street," he said.

Blanchard agreed with Campbell's committee's recommendation to begin curtailing on-street parking in the city.

After reviewing Campbell's recommendations last week, city officials responded with designs calling for:

· 9-foot travel lanes (18 feet total) on streets.

·  6-foot asphalt pathways.

·  4-foot buffer zones between street edges and pathways.

City officials will meet with Campbell at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 1, to walk to Cedar Street and review the citizens committee recommendation to move the sidewalk to the south side of Cedar Street. Afterward, the council will revisit the sidewalk-design issue at City Hall.

In other Bellevue news:

· A special meeting of the City Council will hear public comment on flood preparations on May 1 at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall.

· The council passed a resolution in support of the Blaine County Ambulance District's property-tax levy rate increase. If approved by two-thirds of the voters, the May ballot initiative would raise an additional $350,000 per year for the district and increase property taxes by $3 per $100,000 of assessed value.

· The City Council is considering a $10-dollar-per-month sewer service rate hike to pay for construction of a new wastewater treatment facility. The council will consider the rate increase at a meeting June 12.

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