Third and Fourth Avenue sidewalk projects delayed

A much-needed section of sidewalk just north of the new Rite Aid store on North Fifth Avenue is set to go in, but the consequence is that sidewalk repairs to Third and Fourth avenues will not be made.

“When does it stop?” Councilman Bill Huizinga asked. Huizinga said that historically another repair project always, inevitably, has taken priority over the Third and Fourth avenue repairs, as well as taking away needed funding.

“Bill, all I can say is it’s a needed sidewalk repair,” Public Works director Jim Bay responded. “This is an area that I felt was an emergency.”

The project would complete the sidewalk on the west side of Fifth Avenue up to Spruce Street. Today the 8-foot-wide sidewalk runs from the corner of West Washington Street and Fifth Avenue to Rite Aid’s Fifth Avenue entrance, where it ends. There is just a dirt path continuing to the north.

“One side was drastically missing,” city engineer Bill Bullock said, adding that the result is that there’s no consistent compliance to the American Disabilities Act’s (ADA) requirements, as well as making it a dangerous area for pedestrian use.

Bids for the project were due April 4 and it is expected to cost between $10,000-$20,000. A bid recommendation should be ready for council approval on April 14.

Another reason the Fifth Avenue project took priority over Third or Fourth avenues is a matter of funding. Proposed improvements to Third Avenue alone — the section between West Washington Street and West Fir Street — would cost an estimated $88,000.

“As much as I hate to say it, it’s money driven. We’re improving every year, but without the proper funds it’s a slow process,” Bay said. “The dollar amounts are just going to get higher and higher every year we put it off.”

Councilman Ken Hays asked Bay if the city had applied for any “safe passage” grants; grants that award funding so that municipalities can make necessary repairs and thereby promote pedestrian safety. Bay said that the city had applied for such grants but never had been awarded any monies.

“To put it bluntly, you get higher points if you get more accidents and run over more people,” Bay said.

Councilwoman Susan Lorenzen said one of her biggest concerns is revenue streaming.

“It’s pretty sad that we don’t have the money to fix up our sidewalks,” Lorenzen said.

Bay said the problem is that Sequim does not have enough funding sources and he stressed that the council must continue exploring Local Improvement Districts and Transportation Benefit Districts as options.

The council is scheduled to receive a presentation regarding both LIDs and TBDs on May 12.

Resident Ruth Marcus suggested the city begin hosting an annual “I Love Sequim” event where all city residents pitch-in financially on a mutually decided project such as sidewalks or lighting.

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