Caltrans rejects plan, suggests alternative to fund walkway required to open Roseland school

State legislators Noreen Evans and Wesley Chesbro have asked state transportation officials to help complete a delayed sidewalk that threatens the opening of the new Roseland Creek Elementary School.

Though construction of the $28 million school in west Santa Rosa is nearly completed, funding for the $417,000 sidewalk along Burbank Avenue is no longer available because of elimination of the city redevelopment agency.

Because of liability concerns, the city will not allow the school to open without a safe route for students.

The legislators asked the agency to allow the school to use $332,000 left over from an unrelated "Safe Routes" grant. That money, which funded the construction of a route on Water Trough Road just west of Sebastopol, would otherwise be sent back to the state.

"This proposal may be unconventional and one that has never been pursued before, but these are difficult times and we must be creative in looking for positive solutions to difficult problems," state Sen. Evans, D-Santa Rosa, and Assemblyman Chesbro, D-Arcata, said in a letter sent to Caltrans Acting Director Malcolm Dougherty.

But Dougherty wrote back saying that such a move would violate the rules for awarding Safe Routes grants.

"While we appreciate the unusual circumstances faced by the county, we simply cannot establish a precedent that would undermine the integrity of the competitive grant program," Dougherty wrote.

He did, however, indicate that a supplemental allocation of funds could be awarded under the school's original Safe Routes grant.

Thomas O'Kane, deputy director of the county public works department, said the supplemental amount could be between $200,000 and $240,000, but that Caltrans has requested additional information justifying the need for more money.

"It doesn't quite get us to the amount we need, but it would be a nice chunk to help us get there," O'Kane said.

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