Grants for pedestrian projects discussed

June 14, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Rita Caufield Mier says her husband, Richard, probably has driven to work less than 10 times since they moved to Martinsburg in 2009.

Undeterred by the lack of a walking path or sidewalk along Tavern Road in the city’s north end, Mier said her husband, a pediatrician, routinely has walked to and from their home in the Briarwood development to Shenandoah Community Health Center along the heavily traveled route to Interstate 81.

“His co-workers kind of give him a hard time,” said Mier, who recently presented a petition signed by about 270 residents and workers in the Tavern Road area who support improving pedestrian access between City Hospital and Oatesdale Park.

While concerned about her husband’s safety, Mier said she discovered that parents of children attending Tuscarora Elementary School, which also is along Tavern Road, also would like to see something done.

“I feel like children should be able to walk to school,” Mier said.

Mier said she received a letter from Martinsburg Mayor George Karos in response to her petition that essentially indicated the city was not able to help with funding a pedestrian improvement project due to budget constraints.

City Manager Mark Baldwin reiterated the city’s financial position Tuesday and added that he advised Mier to explore private and grant funding options, including the Safe Routes to School and Transportation Enhancement grant programs.

Kathy Mason, who works with existing businesses in her job with the Berkeley County Development Authority, said she also was advised by local government leaders recently that funding was not available for a pedestrian access project along Edwin Miller Boulevard.

While the Edwin Miller Boulevard pedestrian project was jump-started with grant funding received through the Eastern Panhandle Transportation Authority, Mason said she still will need to identify a 20 percent monetary commitment for grant applications to net funding to actually complete the work.

The transportation authority funding paid for an architect to determine feasibility, develop a concept plan and estimate the cost, said Mason, who has been working on the project for two years.

The preliminary work by William H. Gordon Associates is expected to be completed by Aug. 1, Mason said.

Once the estimates are known, Mason said she will have to prove in grant applications that she has obtained a commitment for 20 percent of the total cost in order to net a matching grant that covers the remaining 80 percent.

“It may take me (another) year to get that money,” Mason said.

While funding remains an issue, Mason said the Edwin Miller Boulevard project is within the state Division of Highways’ right of way, a circumstance she said saves time and money.

Mier, meanwhile, recognizes a sidewalk project along Tavern Road might have be to done in phases because of the cost, but maintains improved pedestrian infrastructure would be a great health benefit for the community.

“It’s a beautiful form of transportation,” Mier said.

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