The city of Kent finished the first phase of the new asphalt pedestrian pathway along 132nd Avenue Southeast. Now Kent will receive additional grant money to extend the East Hill project farther north.
Kent will get a $640,000 grant from the state Transportation Improvement Board (TIB) to cover most of the costs to extend the pedestrian improvements from Southeast 248th Street to Southeast 240th Street. The city must come up with $160,000 in funds. City staff is still figuring out a source for the matching funds.
Crews have installed a paved path and other pedestrian improvements between Kent-Kangley Road and Southeast 248th Street on the west side of 132nd Avenue Southeast. The state TIB, which is funded by 3 cents of the 49.4 cents per gallon state gas tax, contributed $473,000 toward that $1 million project.
“I live very close to there and I have seen the use the new path is getting,” said Councilman Dennis Higgins, chair of the council’s Public Safety Committee, after he heard about the grant at a Jan. 8 meeting. “I’m thrilled it’s going to continue to the north. It will help people get to bus stops more safely. It’s a great improvement to the neighborhood.”
Many sections of street had narrow shoulders or drainage ditches that limited pedestrian travel. The new continuous walkway connects residents along 132nd Avenue to destinations such as the Wilson Playfields, Lake Meridian Park and Ride and the Marketplace at Lake Meridian.
Crews added a flashing beacon at a crosswalk near Southeast 253rd Street to help people get to Wilson Playfields. Pedestrians can push a button to get a flashing light to alert drivers that they want to cross the street.
“Phase one has reached substantial completion,” said Drew Holcomb, city design engineer, in an email. “We are waiting for warmer weather to install the plastic lane markings and the curb that will be placed along the shoulder sections of the path.”
Construction is expected to start this summer on phase two – the extension of the pathway along the west side to Southeast 240th Street.
”We are still in the planning phase but hope to construct from June to August,” Holcomb said.
City Public Works Director Tim LaPorte told the council committee that staff worked hard to get the two state TIB grants.
“The TIB was very impressed with the design staff and how they were able to get the project out in short order after they gave us the grant for the first part,” LaPorte said. “That had a lot to do with the reason we received the second grant.”
The TIB is an independent state agency, created by the Legislature, that distributes and manages street construction and maintenance grants to 320 cities and urban counties.
Councilwoman Brenda Fincher likes the improvements for pedestrians.
“Not only will it help school buses but preschools, a church and residences along there,” Fincher said. “It’s going to be a huge help with our no lack of rain around here and the mud.”
Kent would like to expand 132nd Avenue Southeast to a five-lane road with new sidewalks, lights, bicycle lanes, curbs and gutters but that work would cost an estimated $50 million, so city officials decided to go with asphalt pathways, which are much less expensive than concrete sidewalks. City staff hasn’t identified a funding source for the large-scale project and getting such funds is unlikely for the foreseeable future, according to city documents.