Nothing quite like suburbia to make you want to grind your teeth.
In September 2011, MNDOT awarded several Safe Routes to Schools grants to Anoka County suburbs to help encourage kids to walk to school. One of the projects was to improve walkability to Westwood Intermediate and Middle Schools by constructing a six-foot sidewalk on 91st Avenue NE in front of the schools and to add an extension on Jackson Street NE south to the 89th Avenue city trail.
Sounds super, right? Especially since SRTS projects are funded at 100% with no match required from local government. Hooray!
No, of course not. The Blaine City Council is officially deadlocked about actually building the sidewalk. One council member objects to how much a sidewalk will “cut into” homeowner lots, especially narrow ones. However, there’s one filthy problem with acting like this cuts into homeowner property: It doesn’t. Those homes, much like my own Blaine-area residence, includes city right of way. Something like the first 10 feet of my property is technically city right of way. 91st Avenue NE being a part of “Old Blaine,” my money’s on the same being true for these homeowners. That lawn they mow? Ain’t theirs, really.
Another council member believes that building the sidewalk won’t prevent students from cutting through the church parking lot. Well, of course it won’t. I doubt that was the stated purpose of the project. Kids cut through church parking lots.
Of 258 property owners who would be impacted by the project, 50 attended the public meeting. Blaine council workshops do not allow public input, just observation.
I’m seeing more and more of these situations — someone with authority to do so applies for a grant, then when it gets funded, stuff goes higgledy piggledy when government bodies get involved. Fridley’s grant from Bike Walk Twin Cities comes to mind.
The sidewalk project is really important, especially in light of the growing pains of School District 16 — the district’s K-3 schools are at (or beyond) capacity, and those very schools feed into Westwood Intermediate. More kids in K-3 equates to more kids coming to 4-6 very soon. Let’s give them sidewalks to help them get there.
(Note: I am about 6 years from having a kid at Westwood. Having this sidewalk would make it possible for said child to bike to school. So, yes, I have a bias here in favor of the sidewalk.)