Long sprint to add sidewalks on Northeast 68th Street

Hazel Dell Neighborhood Association picks up battle to get sidewalks on dangerous stretch

By Adam Littman, Columbian Staff Writer

Published:

 

Public meeting

• What: Northeast Hazel Dell Neighborhood Association meeting on 68th Street

• When: 6 to 8 p.m. June 5

• Where: 78th Street Operations Center, building B, 4700 N.E. 78th St., Vancouver.

Residents on and near Northeast 68th Street have tried to get sidewalks on the narrow road for quite a while.

“My husband was trying to get them so we could walk with our kids to Hazel Dell Park when they were younger,” Sherry Van Cleve said. “They’re 50 now. I have grandkids in their 30s.”

Van Cleve’s husband, Bud Van Cleve — or the “Mayor of Hazel Dell,” as he was known — wasn’t able to get sidewalks for the street before he died in November 2014. The project quieted down a bit after his death because “nobody was stirring the pot,” Sherry Van Cleve said.

Now, it appears like the street is close to getting sidewalks thanks to a bunch of pot stirrers in the Northeast Hazel Dell Neighborhood Association.

Getting sidewalks on 68th Street was named the highest-scoring project on the county’s Sidewalk Infill Priority List, and the county applied for a 2017 Transportation Alternatives Program grant through the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council.

Since there are limited grant funds, the county requested $800,000 for the grant to go toward the $2.1 million project. If the grant money comes through, the county would have to find funding from elsewhere for the rest of the project.

“If we were to receive the funds, we would permit the entire length, engineer and design the entire length,” said Susan Wilson, programming manager with Clark County Public Works. “Then we’d construct part of it.”

Wilson said sidewalk projects usually cost in the $200,000 to $400,000 range. What makes 68th Street so much pricier is it’s on a vertical curve. Because of that, to build in sidewalks, the street would have to be widened with a wall built below the widened portion to support it, Wilson said.

68th Street has two 11-foot lanes with little to no shoulder throughout and slopes greater than 12 percent, according to the county’s grant application. There is daily traffic of 2,357 vehicles on the road, which has a posted speed limit of 35 mph, but most motorists drive faster, the grant stated. There have been 17 reported collisions on 68th Street in the last decade, according to the report.

There have been no reports of pedestrians hit on the road, Wilson said. That still doesn’t mean nearby residents feel safe walking it.

“The cars barely even more over when you’re walking,” said Amanda Higginbotham, who lives near 68th Street and has three children, a 4 year old, 3 year old and 7 month old.

Higginbotham moved to the area from Seattle, where she felt like she could walk anywhere. She and her family would walk to the park at first, but after inviting a friend over who wasn’t accustomed to the walk, she stopped walking on 68th.

“It’s like playing ‘Frogger’ with your kids,” she said. “You can’t guarantee that the cars are going to drive straight on the road or your kids are going to walk where they’re supposed to. It’s terrifying.”

She said they don’t walk to the park anymore, and instead drive. Usually, they end up going to a different park since they’re in the car anyway.

Sharon Kenoski, another resident near 68th Street who has been fighting for sidewalks for years, said when her daughter was in eighth grade, she would let her and friends walk to the park, but she still followed them in her car.

Kenoski doesn’t think residents should have to pay for the park given the situation on 68th.

“We can’t even walk there,” she said. “They don’t need to provide parking or restrooms because it’s supposed to be in the neighborhood and so close to where we all live.”

With sidewalks, Kenoski said it would help residents walk to Hazel Dell Park and the nearby 78th Street Heritage Farm, where she is a master gardener.

“If I could make it there, I would water every day,” she said.

Residents are also worried about increased traffic on the road from new apartments going up and the proposed Hazel Dell Tru Hotel and Apartments, which would feed cars in and out of the parking lot onto 68th Street.

Jason Knopp, who has lived on 68th Street for 30 years, created a website and online petition at www.make68thstreetsafe.com. Knopp said he wants sidewalks on 68th, along with the speed limit lowered to 25 miles per hour and speed bumps or some sort of speed deterrent. The petition has nearly 150 signatures. Residents also canvassed nearby streets and got more than 400 signatures for a petition for sidewalks.

The county will find out on Aug. 1 if the 68th Street project gets the money, which will be available in 2019. In that year, if the grant money comes through, work would start on the design process, with construction slated for 2020. The project would add around 1.05 miles of sidewalk to 68th Street.

Kenoski wants to see sidewalks on 68th to help residents connect to other parts of Vancouver.

“You give us a sidewalk, kids can walk to Luke Jensen (Sports Park). You can get to Padden Parkway. You can get to Burnt Bridge Creek. Right now, we can’t even walk a half a mile to Fred Meyer,” she said. “We’re trapped like rats in a maze. That’s how I view it. It’s fine if you have a car. Really, who I worry about are the people who do not have a car: kids, teenagers, people who are low income.”