Fresno Communities Take Street Safety Funding into Their Own Hands

Yup, this is a pretty terrible intersection. Good for Fresno, its community leaders, and its non profit leaders for working on a fix. Image:##https://www.google.com/maps/place/S+Cedar+Ave+%26+E+Woodward+Ave,+Fresno,+CA+93702/@36.7232149,-119.7568617,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x80945fb27b8835c7:0x6acfbc1ceaf65fa4##Google Images##
Yup, Woodward and Cedar is a pretty terrible intersection. Good for Fresno, its community leaders, and its non-profit leaders for working on a fix. Image:##https://www.google.com/maps/place/S+Cedar+Ave+%26+E+Woodward+Ave,+Fresno,+CA+93702/@36.7232149,-119.7568617,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x80945fb27b8835c7:0x6acfbc1ceaf65fa4##Google Images##

As we’ve been learning more about the winning grants for the state’s Active Transportation Program, a surprising theme is emerging. The program isn’t just funding projects that improve the quality of life for people choosing to walk, ride their bike, or take transit. It is also inspiring communities to think about ways to improve their own transportation networks and push cities and local governments to get the funding to make those changes.

Nowhere is this more true in than in Fresno. After watching the fifth largest city in the state get nearly shut out of the first round of Active Transportation Funding in 2014 (a grant for a bikeway written by Cal State Fresno, not the City of Fresno was approved), the Leadership Council, a regional non-profit, and Fresno Building Healthy Communities* vowed not to let the city miss this opportunity again.

The non-profits held a series of meetings last February to solicit feedback from parents and other community members on the most dangerous places to walk, with a focus on walks to school. Several intersections were identified as dangerous, and the groups sent a project proposal to the City of Fresno’s public works department asking that the city submit a grant, due in May, to the state’s Active Transportation Program to install a traffic light and crosswalk at the intersection of Cedar and Woodward Avenues. Sequoia Middle School’s campus is on the Northwest corner of the intersection, and the five-lane intersection is also crossed by students walking to nearby Vang Pao Elementary and Winchell Elementary Schools.

“The conditions were unsafe and the parents wanted to know what the city could do for them,” explained Veronica Garibay, the co-director and co-founder of the Leadership Council.

Another view of Woodward and Cedar...same story.
Another view of Woodward and Cedar…same story.

Hopes were high that the proposal would be moved by the city, but those hopes were tempered by a history of under-investment in southeast Fresno. Those fears seem to be confirmed when the city finally got back to the Leadership Council two months after their packet was submitted. Garibay and community leaders were shocked when the city informed them that they weren’t prepared to submit the grant for the statewide cycle, but promised to submit it to the much smaller regional grant cycle later in the summer.

“They didn’t apply. The 5th largest city in California didn’t apply to the largest active transportation grant program in the state,” wrote Garibay. “It has been difficult to get the city to apply for funding for some parts of the City of Fresno.”

Undeterred, they vowed to make certain the city stuck to its word. Working with City Councilmember Sal Quintero and city staff, the community made certain the grant was submitted during the summer grant cycle. The City Council approved the proposal at the end of July.

In late October, the state staff released its list of recommended projects and the Cedar and Woodward project were on the list. While this news was met with excitement by residents and city staff, it doesn’t mean that the project is going to be implemented anytime soon. Final engineering and a little more outreach need to be completed before the project is on the ground.

Inspired by the success of this grant proposal, the Leadership Council, Building Healthy Communities, and their partners are excited to work with the city to see the project at Cedar and Woodward through to completion and getting ready for the next round of state ATP grants.

“Oh yes, we’ll definitely be ready for Cycle 4 [in 2016],” finished Garibay.

*Building Healthy Communities and Streetsblog California share a major funder, the California Endowment.

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