City to establish sidewalk master plan

By Cameron Rasmusson
Reader Staff

It’s a common refrain heard among local residents: Sandpoint is a walking town, so watch out for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Sandpoint’s sidewalk network suffers from frequent gaps. Photo courtesy city of Sandpoint.

The problem is, Sandpoint’s sidewalk network has spotty connectivity and maintenance issues. In a bid toward improving infrastructure for non-motorized transportation, Sandpoint Public Works Director Amanda Wilson announced the beginning of a master planning process at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. 

While Wilson said there have been no pedestrian fatalities from vehicle collisions in Sandpoint over the last 10 years, there have been injuries and near-misses. And with 4,500 pedestrian deaths around the country per year, the importance of solid infrastructure for walkers and bikers can’t be understated, Wilson said.

“Personally this subject is near and dear to me, because my first week with the city … it became clear how important this discussion … was to so many residents,” Wilson told council members.

Sandpoint already boasts 50 miles of sidewalk, 10 miles of multi-use paths and 800 curb ramps. However, because existing city code is inflexible and difficult to enforce, Wilson said problems have cropped up within the system. These include gaps in sidewalk connectivity, a disagreement over a fair method to fund new sidewalk construction and no real standards or allocated responsibility for maintenance, repair and snow removal. The city also suffers from a lack of benchmarks to evaluate overall sidewalk performance.

That’s where the announced master plan comes into play. According to the city of Sandpoint’s breakdown, the plan will establish “prioritization (for) framework and policies, programs and project opportunity areas to advance pedestrian safety and accessibility for all people of all ages and abilities. It will lay out the key strategies and actions necessary to achieve a common vision and establish funding approaches and performance measures to gauge our success.”

The first step to establishing the master plan is to gather resident feedback, which will take place from now until January. This process emphasizes information gathering about residents’ experience with sidewalks and pathways, primarily through an online survey. People can access the survey through the city website or the Engage Sandpoint app.

From January to March, city staff and officials will work on improving city code covering sidewalks and pathways. The goal is to improve clarity, consistency and fairness. The city will also establish a citizen advisory committee, which will provide feedback on staff recommendations to the council. To apply for the committee, submit an application through the Engage Sandpoint app or apply in person at the City Hall front counter.

The final step is to actually draft the master plan. This process with take place from spring 2019 to spring 2020 and will draw on input from both residents and professional consultants.

For more information, contact Wilson at [email protected] or 208-263-3411.

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