Plans are in the works to widen sidewalks and install other improvements for pedestrians, cyclists and the mobility-impaired along Fred Jackson Way from Grove Street to Brookside Drive in North Richmond.
Currently, the corridor that links to key sites including Verde Elementary, affordable housing, an urban farm, four transit stops and Wildcat Creek Trail features deteriorated sidewalks and is at points too narrow for mobility-impaired users, according to the project description (see below). Where utility poles now exist, the sidewalk is just three feet wide.
A proposal in the works, known as the Fred Jackson Way First Mile/Last Mile Connection, would remove those utility poles, widen the sidewalks to eight feet, re-stripe the roadway to include bike lanes, add trees, and improve access to transit stops.
The hope is that the improvements will encourage more residents to walk, bike and ride transit in the neighborhood, thus reducing pollution.
In a letter to Jerry Fahy of the county’s public works department on May 15, Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia described the $4.5 million pricetag for improvements as a “modest cost” that would make significant quality of life enhancements in North Richmond.
Gioia’s office has been asking around for community input on the plans as it prepares a funding application for the state’s Active Transportation Program, which combines state and federal grants to pay for projects encouraging walking, cycling and emissions reductions. Grant applications are due June 1.
In Gioia’s letter to Fahy, posted here, the supervisor said an ongoing relationship between Verde Elementary and the nonprofit Urban Tilth, which operates a garden dedicated to student education and development on campus, further proves the need for a more walkable corridor.
Urban Tilth is currently designing a 3-acre farm at Fred Jackson Way just south of Brookside Drive that it will manage along with a watershed restoration training program, Gioia said. Such sites require safe connections.
“Widening of the sidewalks would enable children and the disabled to safely and easily navigate the sidewalks and encourage families to access these healthy community resources,” Gioia said.
Construction on the project would tentatively begin in 2018 followed by the environmental review and design phases.
North Richmond is notorious for poor infrastructure, and up until the 1980s the community was frequently marred by floods from the nearby creeks which turned the dirt roads into muddy rivers, said Robert Rogers, the district coordinator for Gioia’s office.