Posted on

Abby to add one block of sidewalk, remove two

Abby to add one block of sidewalk, remove two Abby to add one block of sidewalk, remove two

By Kevin O’Brien

Two blocks of sidewalk will be removed while another is added next year in Abbotsford.

The city council voted Monday to remove the stretch of sidewalk on the east side of Fourth Avenue, between Spruce and Butternut, and to also get rid of the deteriorating sidewalk on the south side of Butternut, going east from Fourth to Third Avenue.

At the same time, as part of the city’s Safe Routes to School (SRTS) project, a block of five-foot wide sidewalk will be added to the west side of Fourth Avenue, going north from Spruce to Butternut.

The sidewalk decisions were part of a larger discussion about the intersection of Spruce Street (Business 29) and the North Fourth Avenue, which sees a combination of heavy traffic and young pedestrians walking to and from school.

By essentially switching the sidewalk from the east to the west side of Fourth Avenue just north of that intersection, city officials are hoping to make the route to school safer for kids.

Right now, kids must cross Fourth near the intersection with Butternut in order to continue walking on sidewalk toward the school’s crossing guard. With the changes approved Monday, pedestrians will need to cross Fourth at the intersection of Spruce, which is a four-way stop.

“The logic for going down the west side is that you have kids crossing at a controlled intersection where people are already stopped,” said Dan Borchardt,the engineer overseeing the SRTS project.

Kids currently crossing Fourth Avenue at Butternut don’t have the benefit of a stop sign to halt vehicles accelerating north from Spruce Street.

Ald. Mason Rachu said he would like to see a larger “landing” area left on the east side of Fourth Avenue so kids have a safe area to gather before crossing over to the new west-side sidewalk. But, overall, he sees the benefit of the changes.

“Kids are crossing where there’s a stop sign,” he said. “That makes sense to me.”

Ald. Lori Huther added that it’s important that “really clear” crosswalks are painted at the intersection so kids know exactly where they need to cross.

The city will also be removing the stretch of sidewalk on the south side of Butternut, between Fourth and Third, based on past requests by residents to remove the crumbling concrete rather than replace it.

Stuttgen said the city had been waiting to see if it could remove the sidewalk in a way that did not interfere with the Safe Routes plan, and based on his conversation with Borchardt, it “doesn’t have to remain in place.”

“I’m also trying to get rid of all the four-foot walks the city maintains, because you can no longer get a snowblower for commercial use that’s four foot or less,” he said.

In a related matter, the council discussed concerns about the general safety of the Spruce Street/Fourth Avenue intersection after it was noted at a previous meeting that many vehicles run through the east-west stop signs.

Police chief Jason Bauer said flashing lights at the intersection may be a good investment for the city to make, since many drivers seem to miss the stop signs, which were put in last year.

“I don’t believe it’s intentional,” he said. “I just don’t think some people are used to it and aren’t seeing it.”

Bauer said the last time he checked, those type of lights cost about $1,500.

As part of the SRTS project, rapid flashing beacons are already planned for the intersection next year, but those are to benefit the pedestrians crossing there, Stuttgen said. He said he thinks the city should wait until the full SRTS improvements are made before adding more lights at the intersection.

Ald. Dale Rachu expressed doubts about the city’s ability to completely prevent drivers from rolling through the intersection.

“I really believe you could put up seven stop signs and it’s not going to change anything,” he said. “People just don’t want to take that two seconds to stop.”

Bauer said he’s heard similar comments from people who complain about vehicles running through the stop signs.

“You park a squad there, everybody stops, but when we’re not there, and our car’s not parked alongside the’s like they’re going through that intersection and totally disregarding it,” he said.

Eastbound motorists, many coming off of STH 29, are especially likely to miss seeing the stop signs, he said.

Ultimately, council members decided to wait on adding lights to the stop signs until all of the SRTS improvements are made to the intersection next spring.

“The painted lines will make a huge difference,” Bauer said, referring to the white lines that will be added next spring, alerting drivers to the upcoming stop signs.

Council members also had a brief discussion about possibly adding another set of stop signs on Pine Street in order to slow down traffic in the neighborhood north of the school district.

Ald. Jim Weix, who lives on that street, suggested adding stop signs at the T-intersection with North First Street, making it a three-way stop.

“If they stop there, they might notice the one on Fourth Avenue then too,” he said, referring to the four-way stop south of the new Schilling subdivision. “I don’t know, because they go right through that one on Fourth.”

Bauer was reluctant to fully endorse another set of stop signs there.

“If the traffic is flowing good, is it really necessary on a T-intersection to have a stop sign?” he wondered.

No action was taken, but council members did express support for painting warning lines at the Fourth and Pine intersection next spring.

Fourth Ave. contract approved

Just as Abbotsford finishes up work on its Safe Routes project next year, the city will also be embarking on a full resurfacing of North Fourth Avenue, from Spruce to Pine.

The council approved a new contract with Cedar Corporation to design and oversee the project for $98,750. The company’s estimate for the total project is $858,330, but that’s a high-end guess that includes a 10 percent contingency.

“It’s not going to come in anywhere $850,000,” said city administrator Dan Grady.

Abbotsford has qualified for a $450,000 state grant for the project, and has also committed to spending $200,000 in TIF money as a local match.

The council also voted to add a block of sewer replacement, from Pine to Larch, and to do $90,000 worth of road base recycling for the project, using money from the city’s TIF district budget.

Brian Chapman, project manager for Cedar Corporation, said his company realizes the importance of getting the project done between June 1 and Aug. 31 while school is not in session.

“The contractor will have liquidated damages significant enough where they won’t second-guess that,” he said.

Chapman said the plan is to open bids in early February and get council approval as soon as possible in 2021 so the contractor can schedule the work.