Subscribe to get tough, fair journalism seven days a week.
Subscribe today

Sidewalk talks continue at traffic safety board

Family walking along on sidewalk

Of the Keizertimes

The Keizer Traffic Safety, Pedestrian and Bikeways (TPB) Committee continued its search for an improvement project to enter into the race for state funding at its meeting Thursday, Feb. 8.

Committee members are hoping to identify a project that qualifies for potential funding under the Keep Oregon Moving Bill, HB 2017, a massive transportation and infrastructure funding package passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2017.

At the committee’s January meeting, it looked as though improvements to Delight Street North had risen to the top, but new information redirected discussions to the area around Kennedy Elementary School last week.

Both areas serve a wide swath of Keizer’s youth and neither has sidewalks. Delight Street comprises the eastern border of the Cummings Elementary School campus and is also frequented by McNary High School students who use it to walk to school. The area around Kennedy is also devoid of sidewalks and the Keizer branch of the Boys & Girls Club sits right next to the school campus.

“Under the Safe Routes to Schools program, Title 1 schools have priority. Cummings is not a Title 1 school, Kennedy is,” said board member Hersch Sangster.

Title 1 schools are those that have a substantial portion of their student body coming from low-income families. Cummings only recently moved beyond the Title 1 designation.

“You might be able to put in sidewalks on major routes that would be a great step forward. If we’re not funded, we’ll still have the plan,” said David Dempster, another member of the committee.

Choosing between the two projects might present a quandary for the committee as both projects have appealing elements and handicaps that might sway decisions.

If the Salem-Keizer School District passes a bond measure in May, the package includes funds for installing sidewalks along the Cummings property on both sides of the school. Piggybacking on the investment along Delight Street from another community partner might stand out on a funding request. However, addressing needs at one of Keizer’s low-income schools is a boon of another sort. The problem with seeking the funding for the Kennedy area is that there is no Safe Routes to Schools program established in Marion County. The city could allude to the potential for compliance, but there is no formal Safe Routes plan.

Additionally, the rules and requirements for applying for funding are not yet set in stone. One of the expected requirements is that the projects are already included in an existing plan. In that regard, both projects have some cover. Both areas were identified as needing improvements in a citywide Transportation System Plan crafted in 2009, but the Delight Street area was addressed explicitly cited as needing sidewalks and bike lanes.

During the meeting, Dempster was tasked with looking at the Kennedy area to determine which streets might be included in a grant request if the committee decided something less than full sidewalk coverage is necessary due to budget constraints.

In the area of Cummings, the committee’s newest member, Mike DeBlasi suggested other traffic mitigations might be possible as an interim solution.

“We could put in for money to put in bollards as a test case to see how people react to it. At the corners where students will be crossing, it will give kids a more protected area and might slow down some traffic,” he said.

Wayne Frey, chair of the TPB, said the committee will continue to look at the options and define a project scope.