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Safer streets eyed for kids

A low-income neighborhood known as Liberty Park is about to see the first phase of a $1.2 million sidewalk project to provide a safer route for school kids.

Medford City Council Thursday night approved a $128,461 contract with Ledford Construction Co. to complete sidewalks along Pine Street and Beatty Street within the Liberty Park neighborhood, located just north of downtown.

Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneNew sidewalks are planned at on Beatty Street in Medford.

This is part of a larger effort by the Medford Urban Renewal Agency and City Council to improve the neighborhood.

John Vial, director of Public Works, said 900 feet of sidewalks will be installed along streets that didn’t previously have them.

“Along Beatty Street, both sides of the street don’t have sidewalks,” Vial said.

The project will add sections of sidewalk along Pine Street resulting in a continuous pedestrian path from Jackson Street to Austin Street.

The only other bid for the project was from Three Dimensional Contracting LLC for $133,648.

Vial said construction will begin in the near future and he expects it to finish by March 2022.

The payment to Ledford will be made by MURA and not the city of Medford. Project management costs for Public Works’ coordination and management of construction are also billed to MURA.

This is one of many projects that MURA is undertaking in Liberty Park. Recently, MURA entered into negotiations with Rubicon Investments to potentially build more than 100 low-income apartments on Central Avenue next to Les Schwab.

The money for the sidewalk projects in Liberty Park comes from $950,000 of MURA tax increment revenues and $250,000 of American Rescue Plan Act money awarded to the neighborhood with the help of State Rep. Kim Wallan, R-Medford.

Wallan said her interest in the project goes back to her time as a city councilor, particularly because sidewalks provide a safe route for children as they walk to school.

She said there has been a lot of interest in providing safer routes for cyclists but thinks more effort needs to be made to provide sidewalks.

Since the Liberty Park neighborhood, which extends to just south of the Rogue Valley Mall, is an older residential area, it didn’t have sidewalks when it was first built.

She said the ARPA funds had limitations on where the dollars could be spent, so she discussed the best way to use the funds with city officials.

“We’re trying to bring Liberty Park to the level it might have been,” Wallan said. “Those are the kind of things that make a city more pleasant to be in.”

Reach freelance writer Damian Mann at dmannnews@gmail.com.