By Kathe Malouf
Special to the Sun
There is a movement afoot to bring sidewalks and bike paths to the town of Lake Isabella and community residents can help by offering their support, input and ideas.
The Kern County Public Works Department is partnering with the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce and local school districts on a community project that could make it easier and safer to walk and ride a bike in Lake Isabella.
The project, entitled “Walk Lake Isabella,” has been in the works for a while, said Michael Dillenbeck, Specialist with the Public Works Department’s Administration and Engineering Division. In fact, this will be the third time they have applied for funding for the project that, if approved, would bring sidewalks and bike paths to Lake Isabella Blvd. and Erskine Creek Road.
“Walk Lake Isabella” is one of several new and unfunded projects that is currently proposed by Kern County Public Works. According to the county’s website, Kern County has completed over 60 pedestrian and cycling projects ranging from bike paths to sidewalks.
While the KRV Chamber will not be asked at this time to contribute financially, they are assisting the project by getting surveys out into the community. The school districts have also been instrumental in distributing surveys to students and parents.
“This is a community driven project, and we want to know how many people are walking and how many would walk or ride their bicycles if we build this project,” Dillenbeck said. “It’s not just a matter of ‘if we build it, they will come.’ Rather it is ‘if we build it, they said they would come’.”
During a presentation to members of the Kern Valley Exchange Club last week, Dillenbeck said the boundaries of the project have been drawn, but cautioned that the project is subject to change.
As proposed, the project route would be from Tank Park at Elizabeth Norris Road along Lake Isabella Blvd. to the Lake Isabella branch library. Dillenbeck said the sidewalks, curb and gutters would be constructed along at least one side of the boulevard to the library, with a majority of the project being along the north side of Lake Isabella Blvd. At the canal crossing on the boulevard, a pedestrian bridge would be installed, allowing pedestrians to cross the now empty canal.
The project, if funded, would also place sidewalks, curb and gutter and a bike lane along Erskine Creek from Lake Isabella Blvd. to the entrance to the elementary school. Dillenbeck said they may be able to install on-street parking on Erskine Creek Road near the Kern Valley Plaza, but again, Dillenbeck noted that specifics of the project could change.
While the scope of the project is still being finalized, Dillenbeck said that portions of the existing sidewalks that do not currently meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act would be demolished and reconstructed in order to connect to their project.
Kern Valley residents can help the Walk Lake Isabella project move forward by filling out and submitting a Walk Kern Community survey that questions who would use the project if funded and constructed.
“We want to make sure that we build something that people will use, that is why community input is so important,” Dillenbeck said adding that the goal of the surveys is to determine if more people would walk or cycle if there were dedicated routes for travel.
Dillenbeck said that surveys are being distributed to the public through the Chamber of Commerce, churches, Lake Isabella library and through the local school districts. Surveys are also available from the County’s Walk Kern website at: www.walkkern.com
“The community can help move this project along by filling out a survey and giving us their input and support, if this is what the community wants,” Dillenbeck said.
Surveys must be submitted by July 9, 2018, and once completed, can be dropped off at the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce office.
Cost of the “Walk Lake Isabella” project is estimated at $6.5 million. Dillenbeck said that Kern County is applying for grants in the amount of $30 million for other community projects throughout the county. Funding for this and other projects will come from Federal and State grant funding, with a portion coming from the local Kern County road’s funds. Dillenbeck said there is no way of knowing just how much each agency would contribute, but would added that it likely would be a combination of all three agencies.
Dillenbeck noted that there have been several changes in the federal and state funding mechanism that have historically helped to develop pedestrian and bicycle projects in the state.
In 2013, Gov. Brown signed legislation creating the Active Transportation Program (ATP), with SB 99 and AB 101. The ATP consolidated existing federal and state transportation programs including the Transportation Alternative Program (TAP), Bicycle Transportation Account (BTA) and State Safe Routes to Schools Program (SR2S) into a single program with the focus to make California a leader in active and alternate transportation.
In 2017, SB 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act, or more commonly referred to as the gas tax, was signed into law and proposes to invest $54 billion over the next decade to fix roads, freeways and the state’s transportation. SB 1 will also help to fund non-motorized transportation projects such as “Walk Lake Isabella” and other community projects around the state.
“The focus is on schools and providing safe pedestrian travel to our schools,” Dillenbeck said.
Because the “Walk Lake Isabella” project is competing with other Kern County projects, Dillenbeck said it is important that Kern River Valley residents let their voices be heard by completing and submitting the surveys.
“The community input is critical right now. One of the two biggest driving factors in getting the funding for this project is community input and the safety factor,” Dillenbeck said.
Dillenbeck said they will be submitting the application for “Walk Lake Isabella” in July and should know by the end of the year, if the grant funding has been approved. Funding for the projects will be available starting in the 2019-2020 fiscal year through the 2022-23 fiscal year. Projects that are funded could be build any time within that 4-year range.