Grow project hits speedbump

The council delays approval until costs can be determined.

Grow Avenue residents will have to wait until next week for City Council approval of a long sought-after pedestrian and bicycle improvement plan along the busy thoroughfare.

Councilors tabled the motion Wednesday until the next council meeting, citing the need for more information about the project’s duration and costs.

“I think we have a great design for Grow Avenue,” Councilman Nezam Tooloee said. “But I think it’s premature to approve this at this time.

“The notion of approving the design without knowing how it’s going to be paid for is irresponsible.”

The city Department of Public Works had recommended approval of a design for the residential street that would include a seven to 10-foot wide bike and foot path, buffered from auto traffic by a landscaped strip.

The design would also eliminate parking on Grow south of Wyatt Way.

The design was drafted after the city conducted three workshops and gathered comments from more than 150 people about improving the street’s non-motorized features.

Grow area residents have fumed for years over the increasing traffic and decreasing safety on the avenue. Residents have cited high speeds by south-end motorists trying to reach the ferry terminal, and have used a police radar gun to document the problem.

Councilman Bill Knobloch urged the council to support the measure in recognition of residents’ concerns and involvement.

“This is major,” he said. “A lot went on in this neighborhood. It would be a disservice not to show our encouragement. I don’t even want to give the hint this won’t go through because of money.”

Councilors Deborah Vann and Jim Llewellyn joined Knobloch in the unsuccessful bid to carry the motion.

With $1.6 million in city funds earmarked for non-motorized improvements in 2005, Llewellyn said he was confident the project would find funding.

“I can’t see why there wouldn’t be money for this project,” he said. “I can’t imagine the outcome being different next week from this week.”

But other councilors said it’s bad policy to approve projects before the bottom line is known.

“It creates an expectation for Grow Avenue that possibly can’t be met,” Tooloee said.

The council is expected to vote on a more detailed design plan on Wednesday.

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