Work crews have been busy installing the sidewalks on North Vernonia Road near Campbell Park

PMG PHOTO: SCOTT KEITH - Crews from Northwest Natural Gas are helping out during the sidewalk project in St. Helens.If you often stroll through the area of St. Helens near Campbell Park, you're going to benefit from a sidewalk improvement project taking place on North Vernonia Road.

The project will install sidewalks on both sides of the road in between MacArthur and Frantz streets, as well as north to Oakwood Drive.

Sue Nelson, an engineer with the city public works department, said there are "some safety improvements, including a new crosswalk that will give people a safe place to cross North Vernonia Road and be able to enter Campbell Park."

The plan envisions a sidewalk from the roadway entering the park, down to the parking area in Campbell Park.

The project evolved after some public feedback.

"We did have a couple of people testify that they had seen people trying to cross the road, mainly to get to the park or to other amenities," Nelson said, noting concerns also involved drivers being unable to see pedestrians due to sharp corners in the area.

Nelson said city officials have been aware of the safety concerns for a while, and they have made it a priority to address them.

"We had also looked at this location in the past for potential grant opportunities," Nelson said. "We knew that this area was growing. There were several new subdivisions in this general vicinity. Obviously, it's a narrow road without many sidewalks."

Unfortunately, she added, "We had been unsuccessful in obtaining grants."

Nelson continued, "With the addition of a couple of larger subdivisions, and from community concern, we decided to direct some funding toward this and make it a priority."

The cost of the project will be a little under $600,000. Half of the funding source comes from system development charges, which are collected from developers. That money is set aside to go toward transportation projects, increasing the city's ability to handle more traffic — both vehicular and pedestrian, as Nelson noted.

Nelson noted that the city's transportation system plan calls for new sidewalks on North Vernonia Street, so the project is eligible for that funding.

Other funding comes from state allocations, Nelson added.

The sidewalk construction started the week of Thanksgiving and has a tentative finish date of mid-March.

While the project continues, motorists may see flaggers, and there may be short delays as equipment is moved in and out.

The project, once completed, is expected to benefit pedestrians in the area.

"It will certainly give them a safe place to walk when they're walking from their neighborhoods," Nelson said. "It will also intertie a lot of existing sidewalk systems, so you'll have a much more complete pedestrian passage through that whole area of town and into multiple adjacent subdivisions, then Campbell Park, then down on through Columbia Boulevard and some of the larger commerce areas of town."

Nelson added, "It's definitely a nice safety improvement there for pedestrians."

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