Madison, New Brooklyn sidewalks get preview

Choice A: Sidewalks, bike lanes and planter strips, as ribbon-straight as the roads they border.

Choice B: Those same amenities, with sidewalks veering now and again away from the roadway, becoming wooded paths and scenic boardwalks.

Two scenarios for the island’s next round of bicycle and pedestrian improvements were unveiled at a public meeting at city hall Thursday evening.

And for several of the dozen or so in attendance, the clear choice was “B.”

“Get the cars away from the people,” bike commuter Nick Beer told city public works officials. “That makes it safer.”

Engineers from the city and consulting firm Parametrix presented conceptual designs for the project, tentatively slated for construction in 2003.

Bike lanes and sidewalks would extend north from the Madison Avenue roundabout to the intersection with New Brooklyn Road. From there, they would head west to Sportsman Club Road, completing an improved bike/pedestrian corridor from town to the Woodward and Sakai school campuses.

The project was approved in concept by council resolution last year, and is now in the early design phase.

Thursday’s meeting afforded the first round of public comment. But most of the discussion focused less on the design alternatives, and more on the question of who’ll foot the bill.

The city has several grants in hand, but the remaining cost – estimated at the high end to be $1.9 million – would be funded through formation of a local improvement district, or LID. Owners adjacent to the project would be assessed for the improvements over a 20-year period, based on the relative benefit to their properties.

The precise formula has yet to be worked out, engineers said. Owners that have already made such improvements, including the LDS church, would not have to participate in the project. And perhaps ironically, local public agencies will be responsible for a large portion of the cost by virtue of their holdings in the area, including the high school campus.

“I can tell you, the biggest participants will be the school district and the city,” a Parametrix engineer told the crowd, “because they own most of the land along the corridor.”

Public holdings also afford certain design opportunities. For example, with city ownership of 15 acres of treed acreage on New Brooklyn, sidewalks could be moved away from the roadway to create wooded paths. Another scenario suggests construction of a boardwalk over marshy areas on that road.

Jean Sherrard, owner of Reliable Storage at the corner of Madison and New Brooklyn, told engineers he has seen passing traffic increase steadily over the years. He questioned whether the project would preclude future road projets, should they prove necessary.

“If you put in these improvements and then widen the road, you lose them,” Sherrard said.

City engineers Jeff Jensen responded that current traffic studies show no need to widen Madison or New Brooklyn, or any other roads around the island, in the foreseeable future.

Plans showed sidewalks varying in width, from five to seven feet. Sherrard suggested that sidewalks be wide, and well separated from traffic if possible.

“I’d really like to see the kids’ sidewalks off the street,” he said, “to keep ‘em safe.”

More public meetings are planned, as the project is refined.

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