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Grant steps on sidewalk future

The city could lose federal funds if Screenland Drive remains without a sidewalk.

December 29, 2010|By Gretchen Meier,

Burbank may have to pass on $125,000 in federal grant money if an earlier City Council decision to halt sidewalk construction on two blocks of Screenland Drive near Luther Middle School remains unchanged.

Following the outcry of nearly 90% of the residents on the 1800 and 1900 blocks of Screenland Drive earlier this year, the City Council voted 3 to 2 to halt the construction of sidewalks on that stretch of street.

The residents argued they weren't adequately notified of the project, and said the new walkways would create their own safety hazards.

The project would have been funded by a federal Safe Routes to Schools grant the city applied for in late 2006. The grant is "designed to improve and enhance the safety of schoolchildren walking or bicycling to and from school," according to a city report.

When the city originally applied for the funds, officials polled the 1800 block of Screenland Drive and reported a 50% acceptance rate. Due to an oversight, the 1900 block residents were not originally notified.


The California Department of Transportation, which monitors the grant funding, warned city officials that while the sidewalk may be eliminated from grant without penalty, future grant applications might be impacted.

If sidewalks are not installed with the grant money allocated for the project, changing federal regulations could force the city to invest its own money. The city has received more than $3 million isince the grant program began.

There are currently no disability access laws that require sidewalks on residential streets, but officials say the regulations change annually. And since the project was originally set to take place, the city could be at increased risk should an injury occur where there's no sidewalk, city officials said.

"If an accident occurred now that could have been prevented with sidewalk, [Burbank] may have some increased liability because of the discussions and staff recommendations," said Traffic Engineer Ken Johnson.

Janet Strong, whose parents purchased the first house on her block of Screenland Drive, said she believes installing sidewalks will make the street unsafe for residents in their vehicles and pedestrians.

"This is the first time I have had an issue or complaint with the city," Strong said. "But I felt strongly enough that our safety was at risk and this was an unnecessary expense."

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