Lynnwood weighs costs of new sidewalks

LYNNWOOD — Hung Ngu­yen, 37, can’t take his dog for a walk without stepping through other people’s yards.

It’s either that, or risk getting hit by a car.

His neighborhood along 40th Avenue W. near Alderwood mall has three school bus stops, many new homes and lots of traffic. It doesn’t have sidewalks.

“It would be really nice to have some sidewalks,” Nguyen said. “A lot of cars drive too fast.”

The Lynnwood City Council, considering whether to add to the city’s network of sidewalks, must decide whether it’s fair to use public money to build sidewalks through many neighborhoods. Lynnwood residents in other neighborhoods have had to pay for sidewalks out of their own pockets.

It would cost nearly $50.7 million to build out the city’s sidewalk system using concrete. The cost for using asphalt would be more than $32 million, according to the Lynnwood Public Works Department.

“We’re talking about significant amounts of money, and that money has to come from somewhere,” Lynnwood City Councilman Mark Smith said.

Nearly 146 miles of sidewalk exist inside the city. To fill out the sidewalk system, the city would have to build nearly 60 miles more, the city said.

Many neighborhoods that are missing sidewalks were built decades ago, when sidewalks were neither desired nor required, Smith said.

The city now requires new housing developments to have sidewalks. Developers pay for them to be installed, then pass along the cost to homebuyers.

In Edmonds, developers also are responsible for paying for sidewalks in new developments, Edmonds public works director Noel Miller said.

However, Edmonds also pays for sidewalks in existing neighborhoods when there’s a need for safer walkways, Miller said. If the money didn’t come from the city, the sidewalks might never be built, he added.

Without the city’s help, residents in neighborhoods without sidewalks would have to form local improvement districts and pay for construction themselves. The process can be lengthy, and persuading people to spend more money is difficult, Miller said.

“We’re not going to try to force it on people,” he said.

The price of new sidewalks may be too expensive for Lynn­wood residents, Nguyen said. He knows people in his neighborhood who couldn’t afford the extra costs.

“I think the city should be responsible,” Nguyen said.

Sheila Simon, 42, and her husband recently moved from Eastpointe, Mich., into a house off 40th Avenue W. Simon said she enjoyed taking long walks on her former city’s extensive sidewalk system.

In her new neighborhood, she can only walk a short distance before the sidewalk ends.

“If you just want to walk from here to the end of the street, there is a sidewalk,” Simon said. “Any farther, and you’re out of luck.”

Simon often sees children riding their bikes and people walking their dogs in the roadway, She hopes she never witnesses an accident.

“I love sidewalks,” Simon said. “It makes it feel more homey, and it’s safer for kids, pets and adults.”

Reporter Scott Pesznecker: 425-339-3436 or spesznecker@heraldnet.com.

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