Merced sidewalk infill projects move forward

05/26/2014 8:27 PM

05/26/2014 8:29 PM

Several north Merced sidewalks missing connections between pathways will get filled in thanks to grant money accepted by the city this week, a move that will help UC Merced students who walk to bus stops in those area, according to officials.

An air quality grant from the California Department of Transportation plus $2,000 from Merced’s street fund will pay for the $17,000 design of the infill projects along El Redondo Drive, Compass Pointe Avenue, Collins Drive and R Street, according to city records.

In meetings with UC Merced students, city staff and members of the City Council heard calls for sidewalk improvements. “Two of the streets that were mentioned here were requests from the students, so that they felt a little more comfortable when they were walking home,” City Manager John Bramble said.

CatTracks, UC Merced’s bus system, makes a few stops in that area of town.

Karin Groth, director of transportation and parking services for the university, said about 35 percent of students, faculty and staff use CatTracks to get around town. An annual questionnaire goes out to the campus community, which totaled about 6,800 at the time of last year’s survey. About 1,150 returned completed surveys.

According to the numbers, 44 percent drive alone and 10 percent carpool. The remaining 11 percent use other methods, including riding a bike, getting a ride and walking.

Groth said the university has made an effort to work with the city and Merced County to improve travel.

The university also conducts programs and educational efforts to get students to use mass transit, bicycles or other methods that are better for the environment. The campus has recently started a program in which it supplies a van for carpools.

The money accepted by the council this week is a small piece of the $430,640 that the city plans in upgrades related to air quality. Money in the pipeline is also planned for sidewalk infill projects in other parts of Merced, according to John Sagin, the city’s senior architect.

Alexander, Carol and Oleander avenues, as well as Buena Vista Drive will also see improvements. “We have a number of grants coming forward,” Sagin said.

Creating sidewalks is considered a way to encourage people to walk, and cut back on carbon emissions from cars.

The air quality grant money comes from Caltrans, but is distributed after a call for projects from Merced County Association of Governments, spokeswoman Lori Flanders said.

Merced also has plans to use air-quality cash for bike-related projects, such as bike racks, bike shelters, miles of bike lanes and a path along Black Rascal Creek.


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