Palm Avenue project set to provide ‘safe route to school’

Parents, business owner share differing thoughts about improvements
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Community members have mixed reactions to a $900,000-plus project that would provide a separated sidewalk and bicycle lane on Palm Avenue. On Monday night the Auburn City Council approved an option for the project that includes those features on the south side of Palm, the same side as E.V. Cain Charter Middle School. Bernie Schroeder, director of the city’s Public Works Department, said the option is scheduled to widen the roadway by 40 feet, cutting into the bank of the north side of the street. The improvements to the road would run from Grass Valley Highway to Nevada Street. Schroeder said the main purpose of the project is to give E.V. Cain students a safer way to get to school. Councilman Keith Nesbitt had said he felt the separated sidewalks, which provide a four-foot landscape section between the sidewalk and curb, were an important part of the project. “It does two things,” Schroeder said of the separated sidewalk. “One is it does give a perceived safety buffer because it’s still an area, so that could be considered a safer layout. It also softens the hardscape. It’s a feature that enhances the walkability of Auburn.” Earle Eisley, owner of Eisley Nursery on Nevada Street and Palm Avenue, said he has several concerns about the project including that the city has not said exactly how it will keep his underground raw water line or Palm Avenue ingress/egress intact. Eisley also said he doesn’t feel the project is necessary because so few children seem to walk that route. “Yes, it will improve Palm Avenue, but if it wasn’t really needed, the money should go back to the taxpayers, because free (grant) money has to come out of the taxpayers’ pockets,” Eisley said. Schroeder said because of the nature of the grants, the money is only allowed to go to projects like this. Auburn resident Julie Ruark, an E.V. Cain parent, said she thinks the project sounds important because students do walk on Palm. “They actually need that,” Ruark said. “You should see how many kids walk on that road. (My kids) don’t now, and that is part of the reason.” Ruark said while she did think the project cost was high, this type of project could also be good for the community, attracting other families. Auburn resident Patty Thomas, also an E.V. Cain parent, said she agrees with the necessity of the improvements. “I think anything that helps keep the kids safe and makes it a safer environment is a good thing,” Thomas said. “It definitely needs more sidewalk. It’s very skinny, and there have been numerous times where someone has been walking, and they barely had any room and I had to go around them (in the car).” E.V. Cain grandparent Jon Green said without more information, he doesn’t think anyone can make an educated statement about the project. “I don’t have any data on accidents or anything else, so I can’t give an informed opinion,” Green said. “Anyone who doesn’t have that data shouldn’t give an opinion either.” Reach Bridget Jones at ------------------------------------------------------ The Palm Avenue Sidewalk and Bicycle Lane Safe Routes to School project • Estimated project cost: $908,490 • Funds from the federal Safe Routes to School Grant: $700,000 • Funds from the state Congestion Mitigation Air Quality Grant: $100,000 • Funds from the city: $86,000 • More funds from the Safe Routes grant are possible in the future • Construction is expected to start in the spring after the city advertises the work. • Construction is expected to end before the new school year begins to avoid conflicts with school traffic. Source: Public Works Director Bernie Schroeder