Walk Isabella has promising future

Map by Shannon Rapose / Kern Valley Sun; A map shows roads where sidewalks, curbs, gutters and/or driveway updates are to be constructed as part of the Walk Isabella project. The project is intended to extend along Lake Isabella Blvd. from Elizabeth Norris Rd. to the Lake Isabella Branch Library and along Erskine Creek Rd. from Lake Isabella Blvd. to Wallace Elementary School.

By Ashley Loza
Kern Valley Sun

The Exchange Club of Kern Valley was presented with the promising news that the “Walk Isabella” won a $2.5 million grant.

The project is estimated to cost $6.5 million total.

Michael Dillenbeck, Specialist with the Kern County Public Works Department’s Administration and Engineering Division, reported on Thursday, January 3, that the project had received the competitive 90 percent score needed to win.

The grant comes from the Active Transportation Program (ATP), which consolidated existing federal and state transportation programs in 2013 with the focus of making California a leader in active and alternate transportation.

With 554 applications submitted for over $3 trillion in projects statewide, Dillenbeck said that this grant cycle was by far the most competitive. Only about $253 million were awarded. Previously, projects were required to score 83 percent or above to receive funding; this year’s cycle required a score of 90 percent.

Dillenbeck’s caveat was that because the project had scored exactly 90 percent, it was at the bottom of the list and had received the remaining available funds. He also noted that the award letter specified that “the state will work with local agencies to ensure the project is fully funded.”

“We do have a couple of contingency plans to ensure that it does get funded,” said Dillenbeck.

Kern County will also contribute about $900,000 to the project, leaving it about half funded for now.

Dillenbeck noted that these types of projects are backed by SB 1, California’s Road Repair and Accountability Act more commonly referred to as the “gas tax” or “transportation tax.”

The project is intended to construct a sidewalk, curb and gutters along Lake Isabella Blvd. as needed from the Lake Isabella Branch Library to Tank Park at Elizabeth Norris Rd.

It would also allow for construction of a sidewalk, curb and gutters, as well as a bike path, along Erskine Creek Rd. from Lake Isabella Blvd. to Wallace Elementary School.

Dillenbeck noted that the department was hesitant to include streetlights in projects unless strictly necessary, as they interfere with Kern County’s Dark Sky Ordinance.

The project cannot start until it is fully funded, but Dillenbeck said he is optimistic that construction could begin in the summer of 2020.

“This is one of their best projects in a much needed community, which is why it scored 90 percent,” said Dillenbeck.

Photo by Shannon Rapose / Kern Valley Sun; Michael Dillenbeck with the Kern County Department of Public Works, left, Dave Freeland, middle, and Barbara Casas, right, pore over maps of the proposed sidewalks to be placed in Lake Isabella.