Walk to school may get safer with street fixes in Nevada City | TheUnion.com

Walk to school may get safer with street fixes in Nevada City

Parents might rest easier about letting their children walk to school after Nevada City officials engineer a better pedestrian crossing and sidewalk at the busy Ridge Road and Zion Street intersection.

The next step of the project is set for discussion at Nevada City’s City Council meeting at 6:30 p.m. today.

Motorists hurrying to work and to get children to class along Zion Street can spell trouble for children who are walking to school.

“They know they’re supposed to stop and look both ways,” said longtime Deer Creek crossing guard Debbie Sturgill, “but they assume as soon as they step in the crosswalk, the cars will stop. Sometimes people don’t see them.”

The plan is to install a sidewalk along Zion Street between Fudenjuice and the Imaginarium building, and add a crossing at the Ridge-Zion intersection.

Nevada City already won a federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality grant for $36,000 to start planning the improvements, but the state only pays the money after the project is finished. Because the city doesn’t have the funds to front that cost, it is planning to ask the Nevada County Transportation Commission for a short-term loan.

Since the reimbursement typically arrives 45 to 60 days later, Nevada City will be able to pay back NCTC soon enough that interest payments will be nominal, if any. The intersection was reworked in 2007, but sidewalks were not part of that phase.

“You always have limitations on timing and design,” City Engineer Bill Falconi explained.

Also on the city engineer’s drawing board is a left turn lane on Doane Avenue in front of Deer Creek School that would ease traffic created by parents dropping off and picking up students.

Three lighted crosswalks – where pedestrians could push a button to activate flashing lights embedded in the pavement – would also be installed across Zion Street in front of SPD Market, opposite of Gold Run School and onto Doane Avenue.

Those improvements will likely be completed in summer 2010 and will be billed to a $180,000 Safe Routes to School construction grant; but the city will also ask for a loan from NCTC to pay the bill before a state reimbursement comes through.

In the past, the state paid for grant-funded projects up front, said Nevada County Transportation Commission Executive Director Dan Landon. But with continuing cash-flow problems, California is operating on the reimbursement method.

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