Safer Islands, Sidewalks to Upgrade Student Pathways to Marble, MacDonald

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Thursday, May 16, 2019, 8:20 am
Jessy Gregg

The image above shows what proposed traffic islands on Burcham Drive
might look like when completed in 2022.

East Lansing’s Safe Routes to School team is finalizing its application for a major grant to the Michigan Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) program for $400,000 for sidewalk and safety improvements to the walking routes to and from Marble Elementary School and MacDonald Middle School.

The grant would help pay for three traffic islands on Burcham Drive to facilitate safe crossings and connecting sidewalks on Snyder to fill gaps in the existing framework.

At City Council this week, SRTS Team representative Karin Pfeiffer and City engineering administrator Nicole McPherson presented an overview of the work the local SRTS team has been doing over the last four years and the improvements that would be funded by the grant that they are applying for in June.

East Lansing SRTS has received more than $45,000 in mini grants since 2015, with an additional $19,000 application still under review for this year. That money has been used to fund Walk-to-School Day and the Walking School Bus Program, in addition to safety equipment for crossing guards.

This will be the first time that East Lansing’s SRTS program has applied for a major grant, which is designed to help communities build sidewalks, crosswalks, and any other infrastructure improvements to make it possible for students to walk, bike and roll safely to school. The Michigan SRTS program is administered by the Environment secton of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty, and managed by the state Department of Transportation (MDOT) with support from the Michigan Fitness Foundation..

The Burcham Drive islands are planned for John R. Street across from MacDonald Middle School; midway between Lexington and Virginia Avenues near the Avondale Square neighborhood; and one further west at Gunson Street. The islands will include user-activated “rectangular rapid flashing beacons” to increase visibility and bring drivers’ attention to the pedestrian crossings.

The Safe Routes to School Team also identified sections of Snyder Road with “gaps” where no sidewalks exist. According to McPherson, some parents prefer their children to walk to school via Snyder Road rather than Burcham Drive.

The new sidewalks are planned for the sections between John R. Street and Moorland Drive, and between Gunson Street and Stoddard Avenue. In the map below, the traffic island locations are marked with yellow stars and the sidewalk gaps are marked with yellow lines.

The grant is being prepared for submission in June and work would begin in 2022 to coincide with previously planned improvements to the area, including a much-needed resurfacing of Burcham Drive.

A resolution in support of the grant application will be on the agenda for the City Council’s next meeting. Frequently such resolutions are passed without comment as part of the Council’s Consent Agenda, but Meadows specified that he would like to see it as part of the Business Agenda in order to specifically invite public comment regarding the plan.

Mayor Pro Tem Erik Altmann mentioned that it might be possible to fill additional sidewalk gaps in the area simultaneously if more funding for infrastructure improvements could be secured.

Mayor Mark Meadows agreed, saying, “If we have some extra money coming up, which hopefully we do, for infrastructure improvements, let’s just finish that sidewalk all the way down to the main street there and get it done at the same time we’re doing everything else.”

Meadows also expressed some concern regarding easements for sidewalks along Snyder Road, explaining, “We tried to order-in sidewalks on Snyder between Gunson and Stoddard some years ago, and we got a lot of opposition from the people who live along there. I don’t think we have the easements. I think that was one of the issues that we faced and we decided not to pursue it at that point in time.”

McPherson said that she didn’t know of any easement issues at this point but noted that there are a lot of trees in the area, suggesting that many might have to be removed for sidewalks.

Residents who live in the construction areas will be notified by the City in advance of the work, and will be encouraged to share feedback if they so choose. © 2013-2020 East Lansing Info