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Wednesday, April 3,2013

'Sidewalk to Nowhere' on the ropes

With a deadline Tuesday, the Waverly Road sidewalk project envisioned by the Bernero administration may not happen

by Andy Balaskovitz
Source: City of Lansing
A sidewalk project along Waverly Road — a goal of the Bernero administration for over two years — may not happen unless Lansing Township and Ingham County agree by Tuesday to help pay for it.

Once called the “sidewalk to nowhere” by local state Sen. Rick Jones and criticized by other opponents for being too costly in a time of tight municipal budgets, the project will die unless the township agrees to pay $277,000 and the county $133,000 for it, Lansing Chief Operating Officer Chad Gamble said Monday.

Problem is, the funding request didn’t make it out of a county services committee on March 19. And it’s not scheduled to be taken up by that committee or the board’s finance committee this week, making it questionable that the Board of Commissioners will get to it at its Tuesday meeting. Finance Committee Chairman Brian McGrain said it’s possible the full board could introduce a “personal resolution” at the meeting, but that requires a two-thirds majority to do so.

The project is scheduled to be on the township board’s agenda on Tuesday, which is the deadline for the project’s getting on the 2013 construction schedule.

The controversial stretch, which is less than a mile, involves pedestrian walkways on the Waverly Road bridge over the Grand River, north to Old Lansing Road and east along Old Lansing to Grand River Park. It includes portions of the city and Lansing Township. Costs for the project have risen from $1.3 million in January 2011 to over $3.3 million. More than $2 million of that would be covered by state and federal grant money. The city estimates the township and county would have to kick in $410,000. 

Along with the controversial section on Waverly, the entire project includes road reconfigurations on Mt. Hope Avenue and Moores River Drive, which are both in the city, to be more pedestrian friendly. Gamble said if the township and county don’t commit the funding, the project will be limited to Moores River and Mt. Hope.

“Every single person has said that they fully support this project, from the Board of Commissioners all the way up,” Gamble said. “The problem is the money.”

Gamble said the city has been successful in bumping the township’s and county’s match down to roughly $200,000 each. The administration says the project would resolve safety concerns for non-motorized travelers along Waverly and Old Lansing and would also connect more parks with the River Trail. 

From McGrain’s perspective, though, a potential missed deadline would be due to communication problems from the city. On Tuesday, he was not clear what the county’s funding match would be and was unaware of any looming deadlines.

“At this point we still need more information,” he said. “I want to see this go forward. I think there’s a clear safety issue there. But at this point, we’re not clear with the numbers. … I think there’s been some communication issues going back and forth, some failure of communication.”

County Commissioner Deb DeLeon, who chairs the County Services Committee, agrees.

“It’s hard to say how folks are going to vote on something when we don’t have all the information we need,” she said. “A lot of it is hinging on the township’s participation in this regional project. I would most likely be in favor of moving forward if all the partners who were at the table are contributing their parts.” 

Lansing Township Supervisor Kathleen Rodgers did not respond to requests for comment. Matt Brinkley, a senior planner for the township, confirmed that the project will be on the township board’s agenda Tuesday. He said “it’s possible” the county could push it off till its next meeting on April 23 and still make this year’s construction deadline, but “we’ll see.” He said one of the biggest issues trustees will be looking at is whether the county will commit to its part of the match — otherwise it’ll fall on one or the other. It’s as if both jurisdictions are waiting to see what the other will do.

“I think everybody wants for there to be a safe way for pedestrians to get across the Grand River,” he said. This area “has been identified repeatedly going back to the 1970s, and is something that has been a priority for the active transportation community for some time.”

As a township staffer, Brinkley can’t vote for it — but he said he would if he could.

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