SPRINGFIELD — The City of Springfield is planning to give its sidewalks some facelifts.
The City of Springfield was awarded $1.34 million from Central Lane Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) via its Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funds in May 2022.
However, due to some staffing transitions, this matter fell through the cracks until recently.
On Monday, June 26, Springfield City Council decided that these funds would be used within three prioritization criteria: there will be construction of new sidewalks, the funds will be used toward sidewalks in and around schools and transit locations, and there will be partial contribution from property owners.
Repairing sidewalks or constructing new ones?
In order for the City to use its CMAQ funds, the MPO must clearly show that the current infrastructure is in such poor condition that it presents a barrier to pedestrian travel, meaning it must prove to the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) that people are choosing to drive rather than walk due to the conditions of the sidewalks.
CMAQ funds must be used toward demonstrating a quantifiable reduction in vehicle congestion or show a decrease in carbon emissions. Because of the nuances with CMAQ funds, the City is unable to use the funds to repair sidewalks; it must use the funds for new construction.
Where will the funds be allocated?
There is a large backlog of sidewalk repair and maintenance needs in Springfield, which pose an ADA compliance and liability issue for the City. There are also many instances of streets that do not have sidewalks, which are limiting safe pedestrian access.
“The City of Springfield has multiple missing gaps in and around schools. I haven’t evaluated the transit corridors yet, but I imagine there’s some missing sidewalk on transit corridors as well,” said Drew Larson, who is the City of Springfield’s transportation planner II.
With these priorities set, Larson and the capital engineering team will create a list of potential locations and projected cost estimates to bring to the City Council this fall. As Springfield City Council has adjourned for the summer, the conversation about sidewalk development will be halted until the meeting on Monday, Sept. 18.
“We’ll probably come back to Council with something that’s over-estimated so they can be like: ‘No, this one’s less important,’ or ‘It’s important, but these other ones are more important at this time,’” Larson said.
Councilor Joe Pishioneri said the City is working to get “the most bank for your buck,” as the $1.34 million is not enough for every street in Springfield to have improved infrastructure. He said the City is looking at areas where there is the greatest need.
“There are some areas that are newer than older, so older neighborhoods are probably going to get more attention,” Pishioneri said.
How much contribution is expected of property owners?
Councilor Victoria Doyle clarified that sidewalk repairs are typically the responsibility of the property owner.
“A lot of people don’t know that. They don’t realize that the sidewalk doesn’t belong to them, but it is their responsibility to maintain that portion in front of their property –– which I can’t say I agree with. I’m just saying that’s the way it is,” Doyle said.
However, property owners would only pay 25-50% of the costs of this sidewalk construction –– rather than 100%. Doyle said that ensuring property owners voluntarily participate in these improvements is paramount because of the economic factor.
“My sidewalk is important to me, but in the context of putting groceries in my refrigerator or gas in my tank, the cost has gone so high in everything, and I think this will probably be a low priority for people if they had to choose,” Doyle said.