Newport Sidewalk Planning Budget Gets OK

A quarter mile stretch of Newport Road – from Wines Elementary School northward to Riverwood – may see construction of a public sidewalk by the summer of 2014. The Ann Arbor city council approved a $15,000 budget to come up with a preliminary design and cost estimates, evaluate different funding scenarios, and gather additional public feedback on the project. The vote to allocate the $15,000 came at the city council’s Jan. 22, 2013 meeting.

The project has a background that dates back at least to Nov. 15, 2011, when the city held the first of two meetings in response to requests from residents who live in the neighborhood to consider construction of a safe walking path to the school.

The staff memo accompanying the resolution indicates that the city considered a much longer project that would have extended roughly a mile all the way to the city limits near Holyoke Lane. But based on feedback from public meetings, the city opted for a reduced version of the project – because there was concern about the impact of a non-motorized sidewalk amenity on natural features and on the “rural character” of Newport Road along that stretch.

Some residents whose property does not front the section of the sidewalk that’s being contemplated have nevertheless indicated a willingness to be special assessed to fund the project. That sentiment was conveyed in a 79-signature petition received by the city in late 2012. Special assessments typically apply to just properties immediately adjacent to the sidewalk.

Funds generated from the sidewalk repair millage, approved by voters in 2011, can be spent only on repairing existing sidewalks, not to construct new sections of sidewalk to fill in gaps.

The timeline indicated in the staff memo provided for four months – from February to May – to perform a topographical analysis, prepare preliminary alternatives/cost estimates, and investigate special assessment and other funding opportunities. The month of June would be used to get additional feedback from the public. In August, the city council would authorize final design, construction and funding. From September this year through February 2014, the project would be designed and the multiple, sequenced special assessment resolutions would move through the city council, then the construction would be bid out. Following that general timeframe would allow construction sometime in the summer of 2014.

This is the second sidewalk design project budget that the council has authorized in the last two months. On Nov. 19, 2012, the council approved a $15,000 project budget to design alternatives for a stretch along Scio Church Road. That also came in response to a petition submitted to the city with over 70 signatures.

On Sept. 17, 2012, the council had considered but rejected a proposal added late to that meeting’s agenda to establish a five-year plan to eliminate sidewalk gaps in the city.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]