Of the Baker City Herald

People in wheelchairs will roll more smoothly along sidewalks on the north side of Campbell Street starting next year.

Baker City has secured $70,000 in state grants to widen sections of sidewalk on the north side of Campbell between the Leo Adler Memorial Parkway near Resort, east to about Birch Street.

Streetlight poles on that section of Campbell are anchored in the sidewalk rather than in the street, making the sidewalks so narrow that theres barely enough room and in places not enough at all for wheelchairs to pass.

The city also plans to cut out curbs and build wheelchair ramps at several intersections, and rebuild driveways to make the slope less steep, said Gary Van Patten, the citys technical services supervisor.

City officials expect work to start in the spring or summer of 2002.

Van Patten said hes not sure how many driveways the city will be able to re-contour.

He said the city will try to stretch the money as far as possible.

The citys planned improvements will benefit people in wheelchairs as well as pedestrians, said Vickie Valenzuela of Baker Countys Transadvocacy program.

It would make it so much easier, she said. There just isnt enough room for the wheelchairs to pass now.

In some places theres barely enough room for even the narrowest wheelchair to roll by without either bumping into the huge screws that hold down the steel poles, or dropping off the sidewalks edge, Valenzuela said.

And in other places there isnt room at all, said Bill Stevens, who uses a motorized wheelchair and volunteers to help property owners make sure their entrances comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Those sidewalks (on Campbell) really need a lot of work, Stevens said.

He said the combination of intruding light poles and lack of curb cuts forces him to pilot his wheelchair on the street rather than the sidewalk on some sections of Campbell.

The city isnt contributing any cash to the sidewalk project, but city workers are designing the improvements. That means the city can use all the grant money for on-the-ground work, Van Patten said.

One of the projects main goals is to widen the 4-foot-wide sidewalks where those streetlight poles are in the way, he said.

At those places workers will widen the sidewalk to 6 feet.

That will be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs, Stevens said.

Van Patten said the city also hopes to have enough money to build new sidewalks along sections of Campbell where there arent any.

That doesnt include the area across from Safeway and Rite Aid, where a new Albertsons grocery store will be built, Van Patten said.

The developer is responsible for building sidewalks there, he said.

The proliferation of new businesses on the north side of Campbell convinced city officials to spend the grant dollars on that side of the street rather than the south, Van Patten said.

Similar problems exist on the south side, however; eventually city officials would like to build 6-foot-wide sidewalks the entire length of Campbell on both sides of the street, he said.

Half of the $70,000 is from the states bike and pedestrian program.

The other half is from the emerging small business program.

That program is designed to help small businesses secure contracts for government projects, Van Patten said.

The city will solicit bids for the sidewalk improvements, and it must choose a contractor that qualifies under state rules as an emerging small business, he said.

To help encourage small businesses to submit bids, the state doesnt require contractors to post a performance bond, Van Patten said.

The idea, he said, is to help contractors gain the experience they need to compete for larger, more lucrative projects.