For north country residents without a car or buggy, getting around the city can be difficult because few streets have sidewalks and there are no bike lanes but that may change.
The city will make a play for funds to improve transit, pedestrian and bicycle access along streets in the Marina District, but some Council members argue the improvements are unnecessary.
The City Council authorized an application for a $7,500 Complete Streets grant from the St. Lawrence County Health Initiative this week.
Complete streets are designed for all access by all potential users, not just traditional automobile travel. Street design keeps pedestrians, cyclists and public transportation options in mind.
Across the country, complete streets have been shown to increase business, said City Planner Andrea L. Smith. We are developing a streetscape improvement plan, this grant provides funding for actual implementation.
Many streets in the Marina District lack sidewalks, crosswalks at intersections and right-of-ways for cyclists. Several waterfront development initiatives include the district, comprising an area bounded by the Oswegatchie River, New York Avenue, and Main and Spring streets.
Were going to have to put in some infrastructure, like crosswalks, curbing, sidewalks, said City Manager John M. Pinkerton.This grant will help pay for that and let us do other things that will hopefully tie in the marina district as we go from the arena to the Freight House to the Fort, The Dirty Gringo and down to Hosmers Marina. We have to tie that together. It gives us a focal point to work on.
The Maple City Trail runs through the district on surface streets after crossing the Lake Street Bridge.
It is something we need to look at seriously and not waste the opportunity, said Councilwoman Jennifer Stevenson.We need to continue the progress of the pedestrian bridge and tie things together.
Throughout the city, roadways are poorly marked, lacking lanes, parking spaces, medians, planter strips, ground cover, shoulder markings and street trees.
Councilman R. Storm Cilley questioned the need for the funding at a Monday Council meeting.
I dont see a need right now for bike racks, I dont see a lot of people on bicycles, he said.
Mr. Cilley also criticized the grant application as too vague.
I am concerned about funding for grants when we dont have a clear idea what were doing, he said. I might consider supporting this if you came back to us with a plan.
Deputy Mayor Michael D. Morley worried the city could be unable to match the grant without cutting funding from somewhere else.
Even in-kind services, technically there is money being spent, he said. We just had to cut community organizations moneys. I dont want to spend money needlessly. If I dont know the full extent of the programs, I dont want to get involved with them. I did that with Neighborhood Stabilization Program.
Mr. Morley also argued his constituents want faster roads without the clutter of pedestrians, cyclists and transit options.
Part of this program is to look at what theyre calling traffic calming which is to slow traffic down, he said. These days people dont want to be slowed down. With the vehicles and the trucks, they are getting bigger and bigger every year. I dont see how narrowing down a street by building a bike path will necessarily help. Everybody is driving an SUV these days.
Ms. Smith said the Complete Streets grant does require a match from the city, but the city would propose in-kind contributions of labor and equipment.
The grant application says it doesnt have to be actual money, she said. Our matching portion would be covered by providing labor.
Mr. Pinkerton said winning the grant would help build momentum for development.
I think momentum is something you have to keep building on, you cant let up on it, he said. If we can get some pockets of growth going, we could revitalize the whole city.
Ogdensburg will proceed with developing a complete streets policy, regardless of whether the grant is secured.
The community identified complete streets as something theyre interested in, Ms. Smith said.