Where the Sidewalk Ends…. Portland’s Plan to Spend Almost a Million Dollars…. to Improve Safe Routes
“Yes, we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrow go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.” - Shel Silverstein
A Federal Grant of $926,970 dollars for the building of new sidewalks, reconstructed ADA compliant corners, as well as a state-of-the-art traffic light at the Grand River and West Street intersection has all but been approved by the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program for the City of Portland. If all goes well construction could occur as early as next Summer. SRTS will also provide Portland Public and Portland St. Patricks’ Schools with a total of $39,993 for student training activities, public awareness and outreach, and traffic education and enforcement operations in the vicinity of the schools. The grant is 100% Federally funded and does not require local or school matching funds. Over 4,000 Michigan Schools, serving grades K-8, are eligible for the SRTS projects. To learn more about SRTS requirements visit its website at www.saferoutesmichigan.org.
Portland Superintendent Will Heath, St. Patrick’s School Administrator Randy Hodge, and City Manager Tutt Gorman have led the initiative over the past months with assistance from hand-picked parents from each school, Fleis and Vandenbrink Engineering of Grand Rapids, and Michigan’s SRTS Program Co-ordinator at the Michigan Department of Transportation. Walking audits were conducted, and potential streets and sidewalks were identified for improvements or new construction. Fleis and Vandenbrink addressed the technical issues required by the grant and have drawn the improvement schema for the project. The map of prospective improvements can be found at www.portland-michigan.org.
There will be significant improvement to the sidewalk infrastructure of Portland with this project. Detroit Street will receive sidewalks on both sides of the street from Church St. to Quarterline; Riverside Drive will receive a new sidewalk for its entire length as one side of the street already has a sidewalk. There will also be a sidewalk placed on Bridge Street from Grand River to Canal Street on the Southwest side of the street. Several other small sections of sidewalks will be placed on Grove, Marshall and other streets.
But, there will still be "a place where the sidewalks end" and remain incomplete for several streets. North Albro and North Church Street near Lyons Road, which have no sidewalks on either side of the street, will not be included in the SRTS project. Nor will there be an extension of the sidewalks on Ionia Road to the High School. In fact, it has been reported by City Manager Gorman, that SRTS specifically prohibits its funds for constructing sidewalks to High Schools. The sidewalks along Ionia Road end at the City Limits. Any new sidewalks will have to be funded by Portland Township or Portland Schools. Chris Jensen, Portland Township Supervisor, told the Beacon that he has not been involved in the current SRTS project although he has investigated it in the past. Currently the township does not have any plans to install sidewalks near the High School. Jensen explained, “Our (Portland Township) top priority for a sidewalk is from Sunset Ridge to the City Limits. There seem to be a lot of kids that walk along Grand River from Sunset Ridge and there is heavy traffic”. Jensen stated that he is actively investigating funding options to address the situation.
Those who want to learn more about the pending SRTS grant and proposed improvements are invited to attend an open workshop at Portland City Hall on Thursday, August 22nd, from 4PM to 7PM. This is not a presentation or a public hearing. It is an open-ended informational Q & A Session that will be conducted by John Moxey of Fleis and Vandenbrink Engineering. Portland Residents are encouraged to attend and review the planned sidewalk construction proposal.