Making downtown Salem sidewalk more accessible for persons with disabilities

Americas, June 5 2017

SALEM–Improved accessibility — that’s the goal of a proposed downtown sidewalk rehabilitation project and may be the top selling point for the project’s funding application.

wheelchair userOhio Mid-Eastern Governments Association Executive Director Jeannette Wierzbicki explained that the idea of improving access is one of the goals of the organization’s regional transportation planning group, so the project fits in very well.

OMEGA is helping the city file an application for a Transportation Alternatives Program grant through the Ohio Department of Transportation to repair or replace downtown sidewalks.

City council already approved a resolution allowing Mayor John Berlin to submit the application, but as part of the process, a public meeting was required Wednesday night to give people a chance to comment or ask questions about the proposal. The deadline to file the paperwork is Monday.

The project cost has been estimated at $791,067, with $672,189 to come from the Transportation Alternatives Program and $118,878 to come from the city. With ODOT covering 95 percent of the construction cost and the city 5 percent along with all of the design engineering cost, right of way and any environmental concerns, Mayor John Berlin said it’s a very reasonable amount and well worth the cost.

Both he and Jon Vollnogle, an engineer with Howells & Baird, explained how the cost estimates took into account inflation since ODOT won’t be releasing the funding until 2020, if the city is successful in receiving the grant.

Kevin Buettner, a development specialist/transportation planner for OMEGA, said ODOT should announce the grantees in three or four months. Both he and Wierzbicki said there’s always a chance the project could somehow receive funding sooner, but no guarantees. Buettner did say improved access to downtown is a large component of the application and having a good destination makes the application strong for the city.

Vollnogle said another strength of the application is the fact that the city has used the program before to construct a sidewalk along East State Street to reach North Cunningham Road.

“We have a track record with the program,” he said.

Berlin, Buettner and Wierzbicki all talked about the role played by Mike Mancuso, the economic development representative for the city from the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center. They credited Mancuso with pushing OMEGA and the city to pursue the funding and working on getting letters of support and other information needed.

The downtown supports 4,418 jobs within a 1-mile radius of the downtown, Buettner said, plus there may be residents from further out who walk downtown.

Berlin said members of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce Beautification Committee complained about the conditions of the sidewalks downtown due to heaving and sinking bricks, broken up concrete curbs and other issues.

City council passed a resolution in December 2014 requesting Howells & Baird perform a field survey on sidewalk conditions in the downtown, acknowledging that sidewalks may need repaired, replaced or evaluated for compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act rules.

There had been talk about using funds from the additional income tax for the sidewalk project, but then the decision was made this year to seek the funds from ODOT.

A few questions raised dealt with whether the funds could possibly come sooner, whether they could be reduced somewhere along the way or whether something could be done with the parking areas. Vollnogle said the project does not include parking areas but does look at Liberty Park where there’s parking at Ellsworth and State and McCulloch Park off of State Street just west of Penn Avenue.

The sidewalk project area covers from Second Street to Pershing Street and Lincoln Avenue to Ellsworth Avenue, along with also stretching to Howard Avenue for Second and State streets.

A question was also asked about what happens to the bricks with names on them, which were purchased as remembrances. Vollnogle said the ones that are damaged will have to be replaced, but they’ll be making an effort to preserve them.

Source: salemnews

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