Township Residents: We Need More Sidewalks

Police chief to help Safe Routes to School Committee prioritize sidewalk areas.

Before the Chatham Township Committee agrees to move forward with a grant application through Safe Routes to School, they asked Chief John Paton to help prioritize streets that need sidewalks most.

After Committee Member Kathy Abbott gave the committee's (SRTSC) goals, she asked the township committee to help.

It "should be a real win-win situation," Abbott said.

The Safe Routes to School grant could potentially fund sidewalks within 2 miles of schools, with the municipality bearing soft costs, such as engineering analyses for the grant application.

With the township's new community policing endeavor, Mayor Nicole Hagner said police could help the committee prioritize which streets need sidewalks the most.

"Once we apply [to put sidewalks on a given block], we can't just shift it somewhere else," Hagner said.

Engineer John Ruschke said the overall project cost for the three areas which the SRTSC wished to install sidewalks on first—Lafayette Avenue, Longwood Avenue and Spring Street—would be about $200,000. Since the township and borough must apply for grants together, Abbott said both should apply for $200,000 each, and would hopefully receive a cumulative total of $300,000.

Soft costs, he said, would be "about 15 to 20 percent" of the project costs and would not be covered by the grant. The application itself, Ruschke said, would be "a few hours" of work, "not a lot of effort."

Members of the SRTSC and residents of the Chathams spoke at the meeting. Sarah Fechner, a member of the committee, said she collected accident data over two years, ending just before Thanksgiving 2011.

In 408 school days, within .75 miles of the schools, "there were 61 [car] accidents. And that's just within school commute time, and that's just within that radius, and that's just within two years," Fechner said. "That's 15 percent of the time when our students are actively commuting to school, there's an accident within that radius."

Paton agreed with her statistics.

Fechner also said "property values are increased by safe walkability of a community. That is where people want to live."

Several parents said though they live within walking distance of certain schools, the lack of sidewalks and unsafe speeds by drivers meant their children were unable to walk or bike to school.

Janice Coviello, a Chatham Patch contributor, presented a list of signatures from residents favoring additional sidewalks. She said there were over 100 signatures.

"The township committee is supportive of submitting the grant," Hagner said, but "I think what we need to have is a better prioritization of what we'd be requesting."

CHAT42 June 15, 2012 at 12:54 PM
Really? Spending the money on sidewalks on Spring & Longwood? Those are 2 residential streets which I think are 25mph. What about Shunpike Road from the new turf fields all the way to Lafayette? Cars and trucks go over 40mph, no sidewalks, a lot of pedestrian traffic for games and general activity. And there are homes from Lafayette to a little past Ferndale Ave which are within the 2 mile walking distance to Washington Ave School, the Middle School & the High School. All of those students can NOT walk or ride their bikes to school! The grant money is not being considered for the most dangerous roads.
Raccoon Red June 15, 2012 at 02:51 PM
How about enforcing existing laws? Parents drop off their kids every day in front of the "no stopping or standing" signs on the adjoining streets. And each school morning, watch how many cars turn left from Lafayette onto Pine, a moving violation. These should all be tickets not warnings. As for sidewalks, they definitely need one on the south corner of Fairview & Lafayette. That's a dangerous spot, and you can see from the beaten dirt trail that lots of people attempt to walk there on their way to & from school.
Richard E. Templin June 15, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Folks, there is a huge amount of discussion going on on the other Patch article. Here is the link there: http://chatham.patch.com/articles/township-to-hear-safe-routs-to-school-proposal
Cindy Thompson June 16, 2012 at 09:16 PM
Thanks, Laura Silvius, for closing the other "sidewalks" discussion that got way off track. (On the other hand, as a new resident in Chatham Township, I sure learned a lot about local politics!) I'm writing because I will soon be moving to a condo in one of the apartment complexes off River Road. The complex is about one mile from the high school, so my son would like to be able to walk home from school. That would help me, too, because I work in the city two or three days a week and can't pick him up from school. Because we'll be within two miles of the high school, we do not qualify for bus service. Unfortunately, there are no sidewalks on Southern Blvd from River Road, or on Fairmount to Longwood. The section of Southern Blvd between River Road and Fairmount looks especially dangerous for pedestrians. Please add these streets to the list of streets that need sidewalks. I find it difficult to believe that a wealthy town like Chatham Township/Borough is even debating this. Thanks, Cindy
Raccoon Red June 18, 2012 at 01:31 PM
When I first moved to the Township in the mid-80's I attended a couple of school board meetings to see what was going on. An issue at one of those meetings was that a group of people from the condos were petitioning to have sidewalks installed so their children could walk to school. But the whole thing was quickly squashed. Apparently, when the condos were first built they were marketed as an isolated community where adults without children would want to reside. Using that approach the builder avoided having the town require him to pay for installation of sidewalk access to the rest of the community, something that would normally be required of most builders of such a complex. However, once the condos opened it turned out that many families with children bought units there too. So the petitioners were told that unless they wanted to build the sidewalks themselves and pay for the ongoing maintenance and insurance for them (especially for the difficult Snake Hill portion) it was not going to happen.


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