Some people call them sidewalks to nowhere.
Others question the cost.
Despite the criticism, residents in Bly and Beatty seem to increasingly like their new sidewalks.
“Some people say why waste the money on Beatty and Bly,” says Daryl Malvern, owner of the Palomino Store in Beatty. “Why not? It’s time.”
“I never thought I’d see sidewalks in Beatty,” admits Russell Pederson. “We stop places and people say, ‘Hey, I hear you’ve got sidewalks now.’ They’re nice to have because you used to have to walk in a ditch.”
“It’s a non-stop topic of conversation,” says Cathy Snow, owner of the Coyote Café in Bly. “It doesn’t bother me at all, but a lot of people are against it. You can’t please everybody. I think anything to improve a town like this is fine with me.”
Sidewalks were built in Bly, population 1,000, and Beatty, population 500, over the summer as part of a larger $5.4 million Oregon Department of Transportation road improvement project that paved 18 miles of Highway 140 east.
Project manager Tom Feeley says about 90 percent of the price is paid with federal funds, and the other 10 percent comes from the state. Although he doesn’t have breakout costs, Feeley says about $300,000 was money designated for bicyclist-pedestrian improvements, including sidewalks.
Bly’s sidewalks were built on both sides of the highway, but only the south side has a sidewalk in Beatty.
Some people, however, believe money spent on the road improvements and sidewalks would have better spent on Gearhart School, Bly’s elementary school. The school was reconfigured this fall, offering a Web-based education program, and most students are bused to the school in Bonanza.
Feeley is sympathetic with that concern, but notes money for schools and roads comes from different funding sources.
In Bly, the Community Action Team partnered with ODOT and received a $60,000 grant for solar-powered streetlights, planters, benches and other improvements.
Concerns in Bly focus on changes at the post office and Sycan Store. Bly postmaster Patti Brunkala is concerned whether rain, snow and ice will slide toward the post office.
Bill Essig, owner of the Sycan Store, is concerned that the narrower traffic lanes on Highway 140, especially in front of his store, will make parking difficult for large trucks. He’s also having cinders in the rectangular-sized areas in front of his store replaced with pavers.
But he’s pleased with new water drains and with the overall work.
“Looking nice,” he says. “The road is good.”
Katherine Valladao says her pickup truck has nearly been sideswiped while parallel parked by the Sycan Store, but believes the sidewalks will be safer, especially for older people walking to and from the post office.
Feeley says the narrower roadway and sidewalks were created to help slow down traffic through Bly and give people a safe place to walk.
“People will drive to the conditions of a highway. Part of it was to let motorists know there are towns there,” he says. “It helps with calming traffic. It helps with the kids. It helps with people walking. It was the right thing to do.”
Leda Hunter, who heads the Bly Community Action Team, likes the idea of slowing down traffic, but is concerned about the lack of parking areas for large trucks.
“There was a lot of disappointment on the design in front of the post office,” Hunter says. But, she adds, the redesign, which involved tearing out previously installed curbs, curbed those concerns.
“I think it looks great,” Hunter says, noting the action team group will plant and maintain planters and concrete benches.
“I think they dress the town up,” says Billie Livingston, manager of the Bly Chevron.
“I think people are pretty happy,” agrees Robert Guston. “It’s a positive step toward beautifying the town.
“It’s a big improvement. It makes the town look better,” echoes Angela Castillo. “It’s very eye-appealing.”
While Shirley Pederson laughingly calls it “our sidewalk to nowhere,” she’s grateful to have a safer place for walks.
Malvern is pleased because new drains were part of the project, and says the paving has reduced dust problems.
“I love it. What an improvement,” Malvern says. “The little town needed a facelift.”