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"City may get cash for pier, sidewalks"

"There’s a good chance that some of the missing sidewalks in Oak Harbor will be built after all, but without forcing the landowners to pay the hefty costs.In addition, there’s a chance that the city will get some federal money to kick-start the proposed municipal pier project on the waterfront. Island County Public Works Director Mike Morton said that the Island County members of the Skagit/Island Regional Transportation Planning Organization recently set funding priorities for “alternative transportation” projects in the county.The top-ranked project, Morton said, is the proposed $4.5 million Maylor pier in Oak Harbor, while second is a $210,000 project for arterial street sidewalk installation in the city.The next step, Morton said, is for the Island County members of the organization to get together with the Skagit County members to set funding priorities for the entire two-county area. The meeting is set for Nov. 24.Oak Harbor City Councilmember Sheilah Crider, who’s a member of the RTPO, said that the dock is likely to be the top priority project for both counties since the same members chose it as the number one project last year. It was disqualified from funding last year, she said, because of a minor problem with the application.According to Morton, the two-county RTPO has $474,000 to fund pedestrian and other alternative transportation projects. The money comes from the federal government’s Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st Century, which is funded by the federal gas tax. The funds are distributed to local RTPOs through the state Transportation Improvement Board.Morton said the state Transportation Improvement Board has an additional $5 million that it will distribute to projects that officials feel are the most important in the state. He said the county is asking for funds from this pot to finance the pier project.Crider said the Island County RTPO chose the Oak Harbor sidewalk project as the number two priority because the city already has a $100,000 grant for sidewalk construction from the state Transportation Improvement Board pedestrian facilities program, but it requires that the city find a cash match. “It was purely a monetary decision,” she said. “We have a policy that if something is lost if it’s not funded, it becomes our top priority.”She said the RTPO might be able to give the city another $100,000 which could be used as a match, giving the city a total of $200,000 in grants to build sidewalks. Sidewalks have been a controversial issue in Oak Harbor over the last year. City Councilmember Paul Brewer originally proposed that the city force landowners to pay for the installation of missing sidewalks, arguing that streets without sidewalks are a safety hazard.The city council, however, dropped the idea of charging landowners for new sidewalks after a group of residents complained and cost estimates turned out to be much higher than the staff had predicted. The city’s proposal is to build 2,245 feet of missing sidewalks on W. Whidbey Avenue and N.E. Regatta Drive.Here are some other projects that the Island County members of the RTPO have set as priorities.• Third priority: The proposed 1.3 mile Rhododendron Park trail will continue the current Kettles Trail along Highway 20 in Coupeville southward. The 10-foot wide, paved trail will start at Main Street and run along the highway to Jacobs Road, which is a third of a mile from the Rhododendron Park entrance. The total cost is estimated at $232,000.• Fourth priority: A proposed pedestrian trail in Langley will run along Anthes Street. The total cost is estimated at $300,000.• Fifth priority: A proposed 240 feet of sidewalk will run along Coveland Street in Coupeville. The total cost is estimated at $6,480."

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