City Council votes to redo Newport Way Northwest trail

March 20, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 6 a.m. March 20, 2010

The city will spend $120,000 on a controversial overhaul for a section of Newport Way Northwest, City Council members decided Monday.

Several months after workers completed upgrades to a section of the road from state Route 900 to Lakemont Boulevard, crews will create bike lanes on both sides of the corridor. Asphalt curbs will be added to create a barrier between the westbound bike lane and a pedestrian path. Meanwhile, road striping and a rumble strip added during the earlier construction will be removed.

Officials hope the redo will prevent drivers from using a multipurpose path for bicyclists and pedestrians as a travel lane. Planners intend for the new curbs to replace unsightly temporary guideposts.

Workers widened the road last year from state Route 900 to the Interstate 90 interchange at Lakemont Boulevard and. The project created a 12-foot trail and a gravel shoulder on the north side of the road; the additional width allowed a shoulder between three and eight feet wide along the south side.

As the project neared completion, however, city staffers received complaints about drivers in the improved section of roadway. Motorists used the widened shoulder as another lane — despite a double white line, a rumble strip and signs with “No driving on shoulder” warnings posted throughout the corridor.

But the problems continued after the work ended. Workers added flexible guideposts — nicknamed “candles” or “candlesticks” — along the roadway to prevent drivers from using the trail as a travel lane, to little avail.

“There are folks, unfortunately, that just delight in mowing those things down,” Councilman Fred Butler said.

Butler and other project supporters approved the overhaul in a split decision. Officials will use money from the Street Improvement Fund to pay for the project.

Councilman Joshua Schaer — who lives in a residential development along the affected section of Newport Way Northwest — urged colleagues to vote against the plan. He said residents used the widened shoulder for parking during heavy snow last winter, when snow and ice left steep driveways unsafe.

“I think if we go forward on this tonight, it sets a very bad precedent for approving road projects in this city without full cooperation and participation by the public,” he said before the rare 4-3 vote. “There’s no rush to do this. This thing has been open since October of last year. There’s simply no hurry.”

The councilman also chided city officials for spending dollars to rework the just-completed project.

“We’re talking about a project that was considered done,” Schaer said. “We had a ribbon cutting, it was touted in this year’s State of the City address as one of our accomplishments that we’d done in the past year.”

Schaer — joined by Councilman Tola Marts and Councilwoman Maureen McCarry — voted against the project.

“Now, we want to talk about taking it away, and undoing it and changing the entire project that we spent a pretty good amount of money on,” Schaer continued.

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