Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bellevue gets creative to support Safe Routes sidewalks

City could lose $148,000 in federal grant money


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

The City of Bellevue hopes to begin building sidewalks early this summer along Fifth and Cedar streets as part of its "Safe Routes to School" program. If it doesn't, it will lose about $148,000 set aside by the Idaho Department of Transportation for the project.

In a city strapped for cash, City Administrator Tom Blanchard thinks he has a solution.

The sidewalks will run on the north side of Cedar Street from state Highway 75 to the elementary school, and on the east side of Fifth Street from Beech Street to Pine Street. They will provide pedestrian safety for schoolchildren walking and biking to Bellevue Elementary School, and mark the first step in developing street design standards under the city's 25-year transportation master plan.

The city has already spent $25,000 on engineering for the project and was expected to come up with $148,000 to finish the job. That money was to be reimbursed by the Idaho Transportation Department after it deemed the city in compliance with federal regulations upon completion of the project.

City Administrator Tom Blanchard believes he has found a way to get the sidewalks built without paying the up-front cash. Next week the City Council will vote on whether to let a building contractor provide labor and materials and then be paid.

The city would play an administrative role in the project.

"This was a reimbursement grant," said Blanchard. "With Bellevue's cash flow situation, this could be a problem. The key here is that Bellevue doesn't want to go in debt."

The council is scheduled to vote on the issue at a City Council meeting May 28.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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