Columbus Street Sidewalks Work Begins

Photos by Heath Scofield

August 29, 2022
By Editor Rachel Scofield

Paving has begun to create a sidewalk along Columbus Street. The project is completely funded by a $400,000 grant from the federal Safe Routes to School program.

On the east end, the sidewalk will connect to downtown. On the west end, a crosswalk will lead pedestrians to the northside of the street at Fair Oaks Lane. The path will transition from following Columbus Street to Long Road where it will link to an existing sidewalk at Poplar Street.

Community members had voiced concerns that Columbus Street was unsafe for pedestrians.

On October 23, 2019, a car struck and injured Shara Baumann’s 12-year-old son as he was skateboarding home after a Ridgeview basketball practice.

“He was three houses from our home. Luckily, he walked away with only bruises and a concussion, but the reality is that he could have died,” Bauman said.

Baumann created a petition to have the city add sidewalks.

“Columbus Street is unsafe,” she wrote at the time. “There is nowhere for children to walk safely to and from school. There is not adequate lighting down the street, and the junior high starts while it is still dark out in the morning. If they are involved in extra-curricular activities, they come home when it is dark.

While the speed limit states that it is 25 miles-per-hour, cars rarely go the speed limit with some cars going at least 45. I want to make sure that our kids get to grow up. I do not want any other family to go through what we have gone through. There is no excuse for our city not to provide safe routes to these schools.”

Bauman presented her petition with more than 1,100 signatures to the Pickerington City Council.

The council authorized the city to apply for a Safe Routes to School grant. Per the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) which oversees the program, Safe Routes to School provides resources to encourage students in kindergarten through junior high to walk or ride their bikes.

Pickerington City Manager Greg Butcher said that the program is highly competitive because unlike most grants for improving infrastructure, the Safe Routes program does not require a city or township to contribute matching funds.

In 2020, ODOT notified the city that the Columbus Street project would be receiving the grant’s maximum of $400,000.

“We are fortunate to have been selected for the grant,” Butcher said.

Councilman Nick Derksen agreed.

“Receiving the grant was a huge deal because this really allowed the city to not have to use taxpayer dollars to fully fund a new sidewalk,” Derksen said. “Also, this grant serves as a catalyst for future projects if/when the city was to apply and receive similar funding. Most importantly, the grant allows the city to focus on keeping West Columbus Street safer for students and residents alike. Big shout-out to City Manager Butcher who led the effort.”

ODOT had planned for the sidewalk to be completed in 2023, but Pickerington officials pushed for construction to begin earlier, Derksen said.

“I want residents to know that we take these issues seriously,” he said. “There is a commitment from City Council to continue funding sidewalks in our annual budgets and looking at ways to make our community more connected. I compare local government to gardening – once a seed is planted, the idea or policy is either going to blossom or die. If it blossoms, a lot of work was put in place to make that effort a reality.”