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Bond: safety at stake

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

City Hall on Tuesday will ask Parkites to put their money where their feet are.

Voters in Park City will decide whether to bankroll $15 million in improvements meant to make the city safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and others not driving cars.

If the bond measure passes, and it is expected to, the money could pay for overpasses, underpasses, sidewalks and narrowing roads, among other projects scores of Parkites want done.

The supporters have said Park City will be a more desirable spot for Parkites and visitors if they can safely walk between many destinations. Over more than 20 years, City Hall has funded miles of trails and sidewalks, but there have been frequent complaints recently that it is difficult for someone not driving to navigate the city.

"When the city was originally planned and built out, the developers who were building neighborhoods . . . really didn’t account for the amount of traffic and mixing pedestrians and bicyclists," says Carolyn Frankenburg, an activist with a group known as the Coalition for Safe Streets and one of the chief supporters of the bond measure.

Parkites seem poised to approve the bond. A poll has shown people support the ballot measure, and Frankenburg, who expects the bond to pass, says there are signs in favor of the bond posted in about 100 places.

There is not organized opposition, but a scattering of Parkites has expressed doubts. They worry about increasing taxes and whether City Hall officials closely considered the bond measure.

Some of the upgrades that could be built with money from the bond include:

( A pedestrian and bicyclist tunnel or overpass near the Bonanza Drive-Rail Trail intersection. An underpass is pegged at $2,760,000, and an overpass would cost $1,850,000.

( A Kearns Boulevard overpass or underpass for pedestrians and bicyclists near the Park City School District campus. An underpass would cost $3,050,000 and an overpass $1,910,000.

( Narrowing the street on Little Kate Road and installing a bicycle lane or a sidewalk. That could cost $1.5 million.

( Narrowing the road on Comstock Drive and installing a sidewalk, costing $540,000. Under those plans, City Hall would not need to build the sidewalk over people’s lawns or landscaping.

The rest of the money would be divvied up between numerous smaller projects that are contemplated in a wide-ranging consultant study. A City Hall-seated committee with activists and government officials would consider the options and recommend them to the City Council. The elected officials would decide how the money is spent.

Tuesday’s vote will follow months of discussions between the officials and regular Parkites and after a consultant finished a study into pedestrian and bicyclist trends. Hundreds of Parkites participated, marking on maps the places they worry the most about.

They have concerns in every neighborhood, but the most prevalent complaints targeted Bonanza Drive and Kearns Boulevard. People say crossing those busy streets is dangerous, and, if the bond passes, they want some of the money put toward improvements, probably underpasses or overpasses for pedestrians and bicyclists.

"It’s never been done. When we were built out, nobody put in pathways," Frankenburg says, calling supporting the bond a "no-brainer."

Supporters mobilize

Bond supporters spent about $7,500 on the campaign, with the money paying for advertisements, yard signs, stickers and banners, says Carol Potter, who helms the nonprofit Mountain Trails Foundation and assists the Yes on Walkability group that promotes the bond.

Potter says the donors are primarily from Park City, and nobody gave more than $1,000.

Yard signs are up outside of many houses, and the group has purchased a few newspaper advertisements.

Potter, who plans to cast a ‘Yea’ vote, says Parkites would be healthier and Park City would have a better environment if the bond passes.

"It will safely connect our community. It’s critical, to me, because I can’t cross Bonanza with my dog without being scared to death," Potter says.

A ‘Nay’ vote

Harvey LaPointe remains perplexed.

To him, it appears that City Hall does not require $15 million. Walking and bicycling routes seem fine, he says.

"Tell me what the problem is here," LaPointe says.

LaPointe, who plans to vote against the bond, recently approached the Park City Council requesting information showing the need for the bond, asking the elected officials, "Why are we doing this?"

City Councilman Jim Hier told him the upgrades from a bond will make living in Park City better.

In an interview, LaPointe, who lives on Deer Valley Drive, says nobody can predict if people will use the tunnels or overpasses and explains there have not been many bad accidents involving pedestrians or bicyclists.

LaPointe says he would have preferred more information about the potential upgrades before Election Day, but he likely would vote against the bond regardless.

"I think $15 million is a lot, a lot of money. I would feel better if I knew where it was going to be spent," LaPointe says.


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