Sufficient funding has been lined up to complete the sidewalk project along South Canyon Boulevard from Sixth Avenue in John Day to the Grant Union Junior-Senior High School.

The Oregon Transportation Commission approved awarding a $1.136 million Safe Routes to School grant for the project on Jan. 17. The Oregon Department of Transportation headed up the effort to apply for the grant.

The grant requires a 40 percent match, but other funding for the project has also been lined up. The project can now move forward with no further financial commitment from the city, John Day City Manager Nick Green told the Eagle.

“Great news for our community and a tremendous effort on the part of ODOT to take this project on and see it through to completion,” Green said. “It continues to show the state is invested in our success and has been an integral part of our efforts to improve the safety and accessibility of our community.”

Tom Strandberg, the ODOT public information officer for Eastern Oregon, said the sidewalk project is not in the department’s project queue and construction would not start this year. He couldn’t confirm if the project would start next year.

When the city initially considered the project, the cost estimate for the entire sidewalk project was about $840,000. But with rising costs, the city council chose a shorter design from Sixth Avenue to the school in June 2017.

By February 2018, as costs continued to escalate and the estimate doubled for half the distance, the city council considered withdrawing from the project despite the planning and engineering work that had been completed.

ODOT took the lead at that point in finding the needed funding. ODOT coordinated the Safe Routes to School application with the city and Grant School District 3 Superintendent Bret Uptmor.

To date, the city of John Day has spent $15,414 on the sidewalk project for engineering and rights-of-way acquisition, Green told councilors in his Jan. 22 agenda message.

According to ODOT Safe Routes to School program manager LeeAnne Fergason, the local cash match of $757,333 will come from ODOT’s state highway funds for a project total of $1,893,333.

The transportation commission awarded $15.6 million to 24 projects across Oregon for the 2019-2020 period, with 18 qualifying for a reduced match of 20 percent. A total of 206 projects were submitted from 112 applicants.

Grants were awarded to projects in high-risk areas that benefited elementary or middle schools in low-income communities and were ready to complete within five years.

Richard Hanners is a reporter for the Blue Mountain Eagle. He can be contacted at or 541-575-0710.

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