Council pledges still more toward bike/ped

Improvements are eyed around the ferry terminal, along the highway in Winslow.

Funding for sidewalks and bike lanes received another boost Monday, bringing the grand total for non-motorized transportation improvements in the proposed 2005 city budget to nearly $1 million.

“Why wait on these projects?” asked Councilman Nezam Tooloee. “We need to start now.”

In a budget workshop Monday, the City Council voted to add about $170,000 to the $800,000 already alloted for non-motorized transportation in the proposed budget.

The growing support for muscle-powered travel is a direct result of the public voicing its desires, councilors said.

“We’ve already taken a big step in committing a sizable increase to non-motorized transportation and we’re hearing a lot of positive feedback from the public,” said Councilman Bob Scales. “We want to have more tangible projects people are asking for.”

Monday’s largest allotment for non-motorized transportation went to a proposed shoulder-widening project on the east side of SR 305 between Winslow Way and High School Road.

The city’s $100,000 earmarked for the project is expected to draw an additional $500,000 in federal matching grants.

The city had hoped to use a private developer’s expected improvement project as the local match, but councilors opted to not wait until the developer’s plans materialized.

“This will allow us to do the design work immediately,” said Tooloee, who expects the city’s contribution will amount to less than the $100,000.

The council also approved $50,000 to design short-term pedestrian and bicycle improvements to Olympic Drive. Often clogged by offloading ferry commuters, the gateway to SR 305 has long been a sore spot for foot-powered ferry travelers. The council decided to not wait until Washington State Ferries issues their plan for terminal improvements before coming up with their own plans.

“It’s just a mess for pedestrians and bicyclers,” Tooloee said. “We ought to go ahead with our own money for some near-term fixes.”

Councilman Jim Llewellyn called non-motorized travel on Olympic Drive “a life-threatening experience” and compared it to the chaos he recently experienced on the streets of Florence, Italy.

The council also put $20,000 toward studying non-motorized transportation improvements on Wing Point Way, near Wilkes School and on Blakely Avenue.

And the rest?

The council will later discuss how to spend the remaining $800,000 in non-motorized funds, but the city has received no shortage of suggestions.

“We have about four different views on where to spend it,” said Tooloee.

The city’s Non-Motorized Advisory Committee offered one of the most detailed proposals for the $800,000 last week. The proposal includes:

• $400,000 for the design and construction of bike lane and sidewalk improvements on Wyatt Way, between Finch and Weaver roads.

•$200,000 to design non-motorized improvements on Grow Avenue, between Winslow Way and High School Road.

•$100,000 to start designing improvements on Wing Point Way, between Ferncliff and Cherry avenues.

• $40,00 for the design and construction of a driveway replacement program on Madison Avenue, south of High School Road.

• $10,000 for the design and construction of a pedestrian path on Shepard Way, east of Grow Avenue to the Children’s Museum.

Increased spending for non-motorized transportation fits some councilors’ desire to generously fund projects that residents will regularly experience firsthand.

“We want to fund the things people touch and see everyday,” said Tooloee, adding that he’d like to see less budgetary focus on purchasing public utilities equipment and more spending on bike lanes and sidewalks.

“Right now, the budget’s going a little more in favor of equipment and facilities,” he said. “That doesn’t feel right.”

Tooloee advocates putting roughly 75 percent of the budget toward projects people “touch and see.”

But Councilor Christine Rolfes urged caution.

“Our responsibility is keep our basic services operating,” she said. “We need money going towards wells for water to flow or to get asbestos out of pipes. Then we can get to bike lanes and filling potholes.”

Public Works Director Randy Witt defended his equipment requests as necessary to maintain the services residents see and don’t see.

“We can’t operate the invisibles or visibles without proper tools,” he said.

The next city budget workshop is slated for 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 15 in the council chambers.

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