Safe Routes delayed, but sidewalks to stride ahead

SUQUAMISH — After receiving a $500,000 Washington State Department of Transportation grant from a bill signed by Gov. Christine Gregoire July 1, residents working on Suquamish’s Safe Routes to School have been taking the next steps along the path toward attaining sidewalk improvements for students heading to and from school.

There was, however, one stipulation with the funding the Suquamish Citizens Advisory Council (SCAC) and Kitsap County received from the state — the sidewalks must be constructed by September 2008. An unrelated road project along Augusta Avenue has pushed the Safe Routes work back to 2009, and there was some concern the funding would be reallocated elsewhere. With this in mind, involved citizens and county officials have devised a plan they believe will ensure this doesn’t occur.

“The construction doesn’t have to be completed by September, it just needs to be started,” said Kitsap County Public Works engineering senior manager Tina Nelson. “We at the county would not do anything to jeopardize the funding. What we need to do in the county is look at several things that we need to do in Suquamish and make this a realistic plan.”

SCAC member and Safe Routes to School proponent Gail Petranek said she has been assured the county was working to secure the funding because stormwater and run-off improvements were needed on Augusta Avenue before the county could pursue the sidewalks project. She has been an advocate of the Safe Routes to School plan during the last four years, urging the SCAC to take up the cause after it formed in June 2006.

“The funding was based on the work being completely done by September 2008, and they’re supposed to have the work done, but because of Augusta being late, they won’t,” Petranek said. “We will still get the money and the sidewalks as long as they promise to have a plan out to the state by then. Yes, the project will be started by then, and we do get to keep the money.”

Nelson said there had been dates that are no longer valid discussed while the group was organizing the grant applications and related paperwork.

“There was some concern to meet the (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards,” she said. “There’s not enough right of way to have meandering paths, which is something I think they wanted. The surveys start next year, and the work is set for 2009. I think that is very doable.”

The county will begin the Augusta Avenue project during summer 2008, guiding the way for the sidewalks. The state has agreed to this plan, as long as the county has submitted its project designs and made headway on the project before next fall, Nelson said.

“I will do everything within my power to keep it,” Petranek said. “I have worked too hard to allow that to happen,

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