BELLINGHAM - Over the next two decades the city will strive to build 14 miles of new sidewalks at an estimated cost of $46 million, according to a new plan.
City Council has approved a plan that will guide future spending on pedestrian crossings and sidewalks. The plan is the city's first that focuses on one method of transportation. Next up: a plan for bicycling.
For various reasons, not everybody can ride a bike or take the bus, said council member Cathy Lehman.
"Almost all of us could do more walking, and I truly am just so excited to see that we have a real clear vision and a very professional plan," she said. "We're going to look back and herald this as a real change in what's happening in the city."
The plan, approved Monday, Aug. 6, recommends a total of 77 miles of sidewalk construction, as well as locations for pedestrian crossings. It calls for building 74 sidewalk and 32 crossing projects in the next 20 years. After that, it designates 273 sidewalk projects (a total of 63.4 miles) and 26 pedestrian crossings to do long- term.
Projects were prioritized, based on such factors as previous number of crashes and whether low-income residents would be served by the sidewalks and crossings.
The highest-scoring sidewalk project, for example, would install nearly half a mile of sidewalk on the north side of Bill McDonald Parkway between 35th Street and the west entrance to Birnam Wood Apartments, a $1.4 million project.
These two locations tied for the highest score on the crossings list: Bill McDonald Parkway and 34th Street, and Ellis and Ohio streets.
Bellingham's citywide Transportation Benefit District, which is governed by the council wearing a different hat, currently uses money from a voter-approved two-tenths of 1 percent sales tax increase to fund pedestrian and bicycle projects. The increase was approved in fall 2010 and went into effect April 1, 2011. Of the roughly $4.2 million a year it generates, about one-third goes to pedestrian and bicycle projects.
Money for the projects also would come from local tax revenue, grants, charges on development, and local improvement districts, through which abutting property owners pay back the cost of projects via property taxes.
The plan was created with help from a steering committee, the city's Transportation Commission, city staff, and by consultant Alta Planning and Design, under a $47,000 contract. Kim Brown, transportation options coordinator at Public Works, said the next step is to implement the plan.
"We don't want it sitting on a shelf, that's for sure," she said.
SEE THE PLAN
To see the pedestrian plan, go to cob.org, type "Pedestrian master planning" into the search bar, and click on the first link returned.
Reach JARED PABEN at email@example.com or call 715-2289.