County completes work on new sidewalks near schools

EVERETT — For Kate Wirth, walking her two youngest children to Jefferson Elementary School used to require a little momentum and a lot of courage.

A steep street without sidewalks loomed just around the corner from their house in the Eastmont neighborhood of unincorporated south Everett. Wirth would gather speed to push daughter Morgan’s wheelchair up the hill, as son Kyle scampered alongside them. The family often moved to a rutted, grassy shoulder to wait out passing cars. Sometimes, they had no choice but to stay in the street.

“Going up this hill right here was so dangerous for us,” Wirth said.

“It was hard for us to get out of the road because that terrain was so rough.”

The journey has been much easier since classes started back up in September. Along with the rest of the community, Wirth, her fourth-grade daughter and second-grade son now enjoy new sidewalks on their four-block trek to school.

The county completed pedestrian-safety improvements near Jefferson Elementary and a dozen other schools this year through a program called Safe Kids, Improved Pathways. For the past two years, the program — known as SKIP for short — has set aside money from the county roads levy to make better walking routes to schools in unincorporated areas.

“The goal of this sidewalk project was that when students walk, they get to where the school crossing guards are,” said Doug McCormick, who manages SKIP and other county public works programs.

The 17 completed projects finished this year include laying new sidewalks, widening road shoulders and raising crosswalks. Crews expect to wrap up the installation of nine flashing traffic beacons early next month.

The SKIP program was initiated in 2013 with an inventory of walking routes within a mile radius of elementary schools in unincorporated areas.

The work over the past two years has added more than four and a half miles of safer walking routes, county officials report. Data show that more than 1,500 students use those routes to reach school. Another goal of the program has been creating better pick-up and drop-off sites along bus routes.

Wirth, whose daughter has spina bifida and other medical conditions, got in touch with the county’s Public Works Department about two and a half years ago. Engineers already had been eyeing the area around Jefferson Elementary for SKIP projects. Wirth’s input added incentive.

The family watched with delight as roadwork took shape along Cadet Way in June. As the project progressed, Wirth would tell Morgan, “‘They’re almost done with your sidewalk.’”

Crews also eased the slope of the hill near their house. On the other side of the school, they built better shoulders along Burley Drive.

“It gives us more options and alleviates the stress of wondering how safe it is to walk to school with my kids,” Wirth said.

The county has coordinated the work with eight school districts.

Other major SKIP projects this year targeted routes to Cathcart Elementary in the Snohomish School District, Oak Heights Elementary in the Edmonds School District and Fernwood Elementary in the Northshore School District.

Money for the work comes from property taxes collected in unincorporated areas. This year’s budget was $1.2 million for both construction and design work. That amount would increase to $1.5 million in the county’s proposed 2016 budget. With that money, engineers hope to take on work at 10 different locations.

“We really want to hear from citizens so we know that we’re targeting our money in the best way that we can,” McCormick said.

The county isn’t alone in taking on pedestrian safety near schools. Cities are overseeing projects as well.

State grants helped Everett complete improvements near Horizon Elementary in 2013, Everett public works spokeswoman Marla Carter said. The city received federal dollars for safety upgrades near Hawthorne Elementary in 2012, but continues to work on acquiring right of way for that project.

In Edmonds, grants are helping to pay for a sidewalk project underway on 238th Street SW, near Sherwood Elementary and the old Woodway High School, Edmonds public works and utilities director Phil Williams said. The city expects to begin work next year to build sidewalks near Madrona School, which serves kindergarten through eighth grade.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; Twitter: @NWhaglund.

More info

To learn more about Snohomish County’s Safe Kids, Improved Pathways program, visit

To suggest a pedestrian-safety improvement on the way to a local elementary school, contact county public works deputy director Owen Carter at 425-388-6460 or Or call the transportation office for their local school district.

Talk to us

More in Local News

An example of the Malicious Women Co. products (left) vs. the Malicious Mermaid's products (right). (U.S. District Court in Florida)
Judge: Cheeky candle copycat must pay Snohomish company over $800K

The owner of the Malicious Women Co. doesn’t expect to receive any money from the Malicious Mermaid, a Florida-based copycat.

A grave marker for Blaze the horse. (Photo provided)
After Darrington woman’s horse died, she didn’t know what to do

Sidney Montooth boarded her horse Blaze. When he died, she was “a wreck” — and at a loss as to what to do with his remains.

A fatal accident the afternoon of Dec. 18 near Clinton ended with one of the cars involved bursting into flames. The driver of the fully engulfed car was outside of the vehicle by the time first responders arrived at the scene. (Whidbey News-Times/Submitted photo)
Driver sentenced in 2021 crash that killed Everett couple

Danielle Cruz, formerly of Lynnwood, gets 17½ years in prison. She was impaired by drugs when she caused the crash that killed Sharon Gamble and Kenneth Weikle.

A person walks out of the Everett Clinic on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
The Everett Clinic changing name to parent company Optum in 2024

The parent company says the name change will not affect quality of care for patients in Snohomish County.

Tirhas Tesfatsion (GoFundMe) 20210727
Lynnwood settles for $1.7 million after 2021 suicide at city jail

Jail staff reportedly committed 16 safety check violations before they found Tirhas Tesfatsion, 47, unresponsive in her cell.

A semi-truck rolled over blocking all traffic lanes Thursday morning on I-5 north just south of Arlington on Sept. 21, 2023. (Washington State Patrol)
Overturned trailer spills fish onto I-5 near Arlington, closing lanes

The crash blocked all lanes, forcing drivers going north during rush hour to use the left shoulder.

The Marysville Municipal Jail is pictured Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Marysville weighs mandatory jail time for repeated ‘public disorder’

The “three strikes” proposal sets a minimum sentence of 30 days in jail for crimes like public drug use and trespassing.

Everett police on patrol heard gunshots near 26th Street and Lombard Avenue and closed off multiple roads as they investigated on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. (Everett Police Department)
3 teens arrested after gunfire in downtown Everett

No one was injured. Police heard gunfire in the area of 26th Street and Lombard Avenue.

It’s time to celebrate and say thanks

Local journalism — and community support — will be the stars of Behind the News Stories on Oct. 24 in Edmonds.

Most Read