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Brown Deer weighs options for Dean Road sidewalk additions

Safe Routes to School grant key what moves forward

July 2, 2012

Brown Deer - In addition to planned repaving and road work of Dean Road between North 55th Street and Teutonia Avenue, village officials are considering sidewalks.

In a joint meeting last week following a public information meeting on the Dean Road project, the Village Board and School Board discussed four sidewalk options being considered, including the possibility of no sidewalk at all.

The first option, also the most expensive, calls for construction of a sidewalk on the south side of Dean Road from 55th Street to Teutonia, at an estimated cost of about $481,600, including road work.

A second option, which incorporates existing sidewalks between Meadowside Court and 46th Street on the north side of the road, proposes installing new sidewalks on the north side of Dean Road between 55th and 46th streets and on the east side of the road from Meadowside to Teutonia, at a cost of about $428,900.

The third alternative would be to install sidewalks on the north side of Dean Road between 52nd and 50th streets and the east side between Meadowside and Teutonia, at a cost of about $353,000. A final option, with a total project cost estimate of $301,500, would be to not install any new sidewalks between 55th Street and Teutonia.

The village has worked with the district to apply for a federal Safe Routes to School grant of approximately $217,000, which would offset the cost of the additional sidewalks. If the village secures the grant, the net cost of the most expensive road work and sidewalks option would be less than the cost of the project if no sidewalks were added and no grant received.

Safety a key issue

Village officials said the segment of Dean Road in question is a common route for pedestrians and students, many of whom have to walk on Dean Road itself and the frontage roads alongside. Because of that issue, village staff prefers the first option, which would create continuous sidewalks from Teutonia west to 55th Street along the south side of Dean Road. Village Manager Russell Van Gompel said that option, however, has been met with resistance from property owners and, as a result, hesitancy from some village trustees.

"Even though the right of way is there and the Village Board has dealt with right of way issues on other projects, people have come to assume that that right of way is their property," Van Gompel said.

Community Development Director Nate Piotrowski told officials that he is not aware of any developer agreement with the subdivision in the area that would prevent the village from installing a sidewalk, but said he would double check.

Van Gompel said it also may be possible, at a higher cost, to move the sidewalk closer to the road, and farther from neighboring residents' properties, by re-ditching the road.

Meanwhile, many parents whose children attend school in the district are pushing for a sidewalk along Dean Road, particularly on the south side.

Resident Jean Wells read an excerpt from a letter from several parents, stressing the need for sidewalks. With all of the schools located on the same campus, the letter noted, students in the district will spend a significant portion of their childhoods there, and knowing that they can walk safely to and from school will help foster their independence.

Many park and recreation programs and other activities also are held on the campus, Wells added, drawing considerable traffic to the area.

"It's kind of a centerpiece of our community, so having safe pedestrian routes, I think, is really key," Wells said.

Part of comprehensive plan

Piotrowski and Van Gompel said during the public information meeting that new sidewalks are consistent with the Brown Deer Comprehensive Plan and Village Sidewalk Improvement Plan, both of which place emphasis on the expansion of pedestrian traffic in the village.

"Eventually we would like to have a grid of walkability," Van Gompel said.

Although the sidewalks would need to be staffed with crossing guards before and after school, Kerr said the district also stands to reduce annual busing costs by potentially eliminating two bus routes - one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Still, the decision to install new sidewalks at this time ultimately depends on the award of the Safe Routes to School grant, others noted.

"If that grant doesn't come through, that's going to change seriously what our decision might be," Trustee Tim Schilz said.

Kerr said the district expects to receive a decision on the grant in August.

At that point, Van Gompel said the village would be looking to make a decision on the final project as soon as possible, to ensure it could advertise the project for bid by January or February 2013 and award a contract by April 2013. Construction on the project, with or without sidewalks, is slated for next June.

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