Sidewalks in Olympia may get a big overhaul


In addressing the public's outcry for sidewalks, Public Works Director Mark Russell has requested the Land Use and Environmental Committee and the Finance Committee to evaluate sidewalk policy and the Transportation Master Plan's funding for next year's agenda.

Russell was at the Finance Committee meeting on Wednesday, November 16, to discuss the 2023 work plan items, including a  review of the Transportation Master Plan.

He said the staff will research what other cities are doing regarding sidewalk repair policy and will compile a possible range of options and implications of those options and discuss those with the Land Use and Environmental Committee.

They expected the committee to come up with a recommendation to the full council and implement a new sidewalk repair policy.

The Public Works department, Russell said, is taking no action on sidewalks because they deem it important to have a policy discussion first.

He added that they are considering setting aside some year-end funds for possibly implementing a one-time repair program when the sidewalk policy discussion is complete.

Finance committee review

According to Russell, the Transportation Master Plan (TMP), which was adopted last year, has a lot of unfunded needs. He proposed that the Finance Committee review those needs and the TMP's current funding with specific consideration to an ongoing update of the pavement management system and the new sidewalk construction.

"We would concentrate on those two things, identify new revenue sources, and hopefully define and implement funding strategy that might have some new funding sources," he told the Finance Committee members.

Russell sees that it may take a year before they can act on the pavement management system and sidewalk construction. "We think it will take several meetings in 2023, or even 2024, especially if we need to go to voters for additional revenue or taxes. We feel this is probably more than a year's worth of work."

He is proposing to start the committee-level discussions on transportation funding as early as February.

2004 VUT measure

Russell said the voted utility tax (VUT) measure in 2004 primarily funded new sidewalk construction. Aside from the sidewalks list, the measure also allowed sidewalk maintenance funding.

"The measure itself did not have any specific projects. It was in the associated documents when they were advertising the measure. That had the list of projects. So it wasn't in the ballot itself," the Public Works director noted.

With the city council's approval – and confirmed by legal staff, Russell said they used the VUT revenue and "made a decision to vary from the initial list."

He added that all the initial ballot projects are still included in the master plan list.

In 2004, Russell cited that the public strongly supported working on sidewalks on major streets with major destinations, bus stops, school activities, and other things. "It was just 20 years [ago], and things have changed. The needs of the community have changed."

He underscored that some of the projects in the ballot measure are either completed or still on the list, but not gone.

"The list of the TMP is now our sideline. The 2004 measure has been superseded, in my opinion. We did not lose any projects. We reprioritize based on new data and criteria and public input through the master plan process," he said.






3 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • GmaMaggie

    How many more pedestrians need to be killed by cars for Olympia to act on the information it ALREADY has?

    From previous years, surveys have shown sidewalks to be a NUMBER ONE priority for the area's population. The current sidewalks LITERALLY put disabled pedestrians in FATAL danger.

    Olympia SHOULD be on the receiving end of a multi-million dollar lawsuit about how it has constantly FAILED the needs of disabled pedestrians.

    To continue to delay action is to show the pedestrian population of Olympia that they don't matter. That is a dangerous and costly precedent that has shown to be on the losing end of lawsuits across the country based on the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    Saturday, November 19 Report this

  • LarryJz

    "...** considering ** setting aside some year-end funds for ** possibly ** implementing a ** one-time ** repair program ** when the sidewalk policy discussion is complete **." Which Mr. Russell suggests is a multi-year effort.

    Delay, defer and distract has been the modus operandi of the city for at least a decade when it comes to sidewalks. As your previous article noted when the public asked the Council to add at least something to the budget for sidewalks,

    "Your staff responded that we should wait because 'it is not realistic to do the complex task of revising the CFP in this short timeframe.' But you all knew this problem existed for years," Dzieza said, adding that the CNA members have been frustrated for years.

    He underscored Olympia's surveys reflecting the community's desire to prioritize the sidewalks project. But the city allocated only $11,000 budget for sidewalks.

    In 2019, Dzieza said, Olympia did a survey asking what they should spend if the city found new funding. "The highest response was sidewalks."

    In May this year, Olympia had $10.2 million in available funding due to higher revenues and salary savings from vacancies."

    Yet not a single penny was added to spending for sidewalks. If they know what the public wants and needs why does it seem like they are leaning against making any gesture to act on the need?

    Saturday, November 19 Report this

  • KarenM

    The Council can make changes to the budget. If they cannot not, then why even have a public hearing? The Planning Commission letter about the Capital Facilities Plan said that the City is not making enough progress on sidewalks. Neighborhood representatives are asking for improvements for sidewalks. The Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee has commented about the slow pace of sidewalk development. Public comment and surveys show that people want more attention to sidewalks. This is not new, but the consist comments this year should influence the Council to respond with something more than an examination of policy.

    But it appears the Council wants to study this for a couple of years before doing anything. In addition to working on the long term policy, the Council could assign more funds for 2023 to do projects that improve safety. There are plenty of ideas for projects in the Transportation Master Plan.

    Sunday, November 20 Report this