Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Pedestrians, Sidewalks, and Hazards

One of the most heated discussions in the last city council meeting was about sidewalks. Mr. Morrison was hot when the council was told that sidewalks promised for Lincoln last April won't be installed until NEXT May at the earliest because the grant paper hadn't be properly processed yet. He was tired of waiting and wanted to take money from the general fund and get it done now instead of waiting till the end of school. There was a tie vote, so the item will be put on a future agenda.

Some background might be useful. The sidewalk problem around the schools is the result of decisions made for years by prior city governments. They have had the authority to require sidewalks as part of the planning and zoning rules for years. They have almost automatically waved the sidewalk requirements in school routes. Combine that with the narrow roads around many schools, and there are obvious hazards. So what can be done?

Section 201.614 (corrected link) of the Traffic Code is where the city can get grant money from. It directs TXDOT to use the Safe Routes to Schools program to distribute Federal money under the Hazard Elimination program for projects such as sidewalks, crosswalks, etc.. This program, which appears to have started in 2001, is where the city is trying to get the outside funds from. Note that this is not limited to just school grounds.

If this wasn't a school, the city could also assess the property owner for the price of a sidewalk. The cost would become a tax lien against the property. School districts don't pay property tax, they collect it, and even if there is a lien, it is paid when the property is sold or transfered which seldom happens with a school. (All the schools recently closed by SAISD are still owned, maintained, and sometimes used by SAISD.) So if there is no grant, the cities only choice if sidewalks are needed is to build the sidewalks on the school grounds with general fund money and hope they can sweet talk the School Board into putting money into the pot.

1 comment:

  1. Referring to my earlier post on Economic Development flexibility, this is another example of the sort of smaller, but important projects the fund could pay for.

    Another that popped to mind, perhaps we could buy some real lane marker paint, maybe a few raised reflectors for certain streets. Just two I have noticed, North Chadbourne and Bell south of Harris, particularly on rainy nights, such lines as we have vanish just when enhanced visibility is most needed for safe travel.