Applications for five state and federal grants that would help fund needed projects were approved by the Tehachapi City Council at its meeting Monday, May 5.
City Engineer Jay Schlosser made his pitch to the council, noting that the state of California announced a new funding stream called Active Transportation Program. The new program groups older programs like Transportation Enhancement, Safe Routes to School and the Bicycle Transportation Account.
California is making $360 million available in the first round, with another $360 million planned later in the year. He said that the city is eligible for many grants under the new funding stream, including ones valued at 100 percent of a project's full amount because Tehachapi qualifies as a "disadvantaged community."
With 100 percent grants, the city would not be required to pony up cash for a match. Tehachapi is well suited to capture some of the grant money for its proposed projects, Schlosser said. "There are a lot of positives here," he added.
One of the five projects include improvements to Warrior Park in the Alta Estates subdivision. The project would put in an exercise path around the park, which is located on Clasico Drive.
"The concept is that you could bike from anywhere in town or in Golden Hills and come here and do an exercise regimen," Schlosser said.
Another project would include the state Safe Routes to School, now included under the ATP. Safe Routes to School provides funding for safer pedestrian avenues that benefit children and adults alike.
The areas targeted for improvement include South Curry Street from "C" Street to Valley Boulevard, Valley Boulevard from South Curry Street to Dennison Street, and then on Dennison Street from Valley Boulevard to Anita Drive, including a small portion of Anita Drive itself.
"The intent is to close a couple of segments where we have inadequate pedestrian and/or bicycle facilities for kids to move around, specifically near (Tehachapi High School) or (Jacobsen Middle School)," Schlosser said.
Schlosser noted anecdotally that his staff has seen hundreds of kids walking from Tehachapi High School in the dirt or in the street when it might be raining.
Another project includes the Mill Street overpass improvement project. The goal, Schlosser said, would be to improve non-motorized access and install bike lanes. The project would also reconfigure the on-and-of ramps "for a safer mobility arrangement."
While the current traffic flow, which includes yield signs, is great for drivers, it's not so great for pedestrians, Schlosser said. He called it an important element, especially as a major avenue for the new hospital, which is slated to open in 2016. He added it will compliment the new Challaneger Drive extension project that is moving forward.
He described it as a labor-intensive project since it involved a Caltrans right-of-way, but the state transportation agency is willing to partner with Tehachapi to make sure everything goes smoothly and according to plan.
A fringe benefit includes the completion of a critical bike path "that would allow people to complete a large loop through the city."
He estimated the project cost to be $4.5 million and would take three years to complete if the grant application goes through.
The fourth project would set a proper curb edge and install a bike path on the south side of West Valley Boulevard from Mulberry Street to Curry Street and provide a valuable link for the schools. "The kids in that neighborhood could have a safer place to play around," Schlosser said. He estimated the project to cost $1 million.
The last project includes a possible grand map for bicycle and pedestrian areas that would pinpoint the city's network of paths, especially around the schools, the airport and park-and-rides. In essence, the project would show where any gaps exist and identify what needs to be connected to the network.
Schlosser made the appeal for public support prior to wrapping up the project. With a deadline of May 21 for applications and a personal wrap-up date of May 15, he added that public testimony weighs heavy.
"These (types of) applications live or die on whether the community supports them," Schlosser said. The latest he would accept letters of support or comment on what could be changed would be May 15. He encouraged people to email him at email@example.com.