Bumpouts, sometimes called sidewalk extensions, are planned for First Avenue in Jamestown as part of a recently awarded $3.1 million grant from the North Dakota Department of Transportation.
Jamestown applied for the $3.1 million grant in February during the administration of Mayor Katie Andersen. The North Dakota Department of Transportation awarded the grant in July and it was accepted by the City Council under Mayor Dwaine Heinrich.
On Sept 18, the Jamestown Finance and Legal Committee tabled the consideration of the participation and maintenance agreement for the grant until its Oct. 23 meeting pending discussion with the DOT on whether the grant terms can be modified regarding issues like the bumpouts or if the city is committed to building the project as specified in the grant application.
The grant requires the city to cover 10 percent of the grant cost or about $310,000.
The bumpouts extend the sidewalk about 8 feet across the parking lanes on either side of the street at the crosswalks and have drawn criticism from some members of the Jamestown City Council out of concerns the structures could slow snow removal while accessibility advocates look at bumpouts as a safety issue.
"This is about more than aesthetics," said Jerry Christiansen, accessibility specialist for Freedom Resource Center. "With the bumpouts, the crosswalk across the street is actually shorter."
Christiansen said allowing pedestrians to move to the right-hand side of the parked cars improves visibility.
"It gives the pedestrian a better line of visibility and gives the motorist a better line of visibility," he said. "Certainly, for someone who uses a wheelchair or walker it shortens the time they are in the danger zone where they mix with vehicles."
Steve Mullen, planner for the Department of Planning and Asset Management for the North Dakota Department of Transportation, agreed that it improves visibility for all pedestrians.
"The pedestrian doesn't have to take five steps to get out from behind the car to see if there is a car coming," he said.
Mullen said the bumpouts can be used for benches, planters and other fixtures that can add to the color and aesthetics of the urban space, making the downtown area more pleasant for walking visitors.
Councilman David Steele worries about adding structures such as benches or planters on the bumpouts.
"I'm concerned with structures on them," he said, referring to the bumpouts. "I wouldn't want to see permanent structures on them."
Steele said his concern was slowing snow removal in the downtown area.
"I don't know if we get to choose that," he said, referring to the possibility of making changes to the specifications of the grant.
Heinrich said while safety concerns could be a valid argument, he had not seen problems in the community in the past.
"I have lived and worked in downtown Jamestown for almost 40 years," he said. "I've worked on accidents (as an insurance adjuster), it's what I do. I'm not aware of a problem with accidents in downtown Jamestown."
Heinrich also has a concern with snow removal around the bumpouts.
Mullen said bumpouts have been used in snow-country cities for years including Williston, Grand Forks and Fargo in North Dakota. Currently, nine additional North Dakota cities are exploring adding bumpouts as part of the ND Moves project to promote pedestrian and bicycle traffic in downtown areas.
"Snow removal problems don't hold much water," Mullen said. "It's been demonstrated they (bumpouts) can be plowed around."