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Posted on Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Ann Arbor launches $15K study of Newport Road sidewalk gap near Wines Elementary School

By Ryan J. Stanton

The city of Ann Arbor is moving forward with studying options for constructing a new sidewalk along Newport Road from Wines Elementary School north to Riverwood Drive.

The Ann Arbor City Council voted 10-0 Tuesday night to establish a $15,000 budget to develop a preliminary design and cost estimates for the sidewalk gap project.

The city's staff received a petition signed by 79 residents requesting the city provide a sidewalk along Newport Road and to consider taxing the neighboring areas to help pay for the costs.


The area along Newport Road where the city is moving forward with a study to determine options for a new sidewalk.

Google Maps

"The neighborhood is very supportive of this," said Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, who characterized the proposed path as a "little bit of gap filler."

Briere said the residents' initial concerns grew out of the realization that busing might become a thing of the past for their children, but it's also a matter of general safety.

She said it was decided that providing a sidewalk for the short stretch extending over M-14 should be the focus for now because it ensures the majority of students can walk to Wines Elementary and Forsythe Middle School, and from the Sunset neighborhood to Skyline High School.

"But many residents in this neighborhood have not given up the hope that they could actually have a sidewalk that extended all the way to the city line, so this is a preliminary step," she said. "Some people hope it solves all the problems, and others hope it will open up possibilities for the future."

Council Member Sally Hart Petersen, D-2nd Ward, asked if there would be any cost savings for Ann Arbor Public Schools if the district no longer has to provide busing for students in the area after the sidewalk gap is filled. City staff said they didn't have that information from AAPS.

In a split 6-5 vote, the City Council decided in August against directing city staff to develop a comprehensive program to address sidewalk gaps in Ann Arbor over five years. Since that vote, the city has launched two separate $15,000 studies to look into filling individual sidewalk gaps — first along Scio Church Road and now the area along Newport.

Ann Arbor resident Kathy Griswold spoke at Tuesday night's council meeting and urged city officials to come up with a more comprehensive plan for addressing sidewalk gaps throughout the city and make sure there's adequate funding to get started on filling priority gaps.

Mayor John Hieftje said he believes many of the sidewalk gaps are going to require an individual solution, though.

Commenting on the importance of the Newport Road sidewalk gap, Hieftje said school children don't just go to school in the morning and then walk home in the afternoon.

"There are soccer games, there are rehearsals, there are practices, there is all sorts of stuff going on at the school hub when there wouldn't be a bus anyway," he said. "So it's an important gap to fill in, as we have several around town that we're going to need to tackle."

The actual costs for construction of the new section of sidewalk is expected to be paid for by residents in neighborhoods adjacent to Newport Road. The city's new sidewalk repair millage approved by voters in 2011 is for repairs to existing sidewalks, not the construction of new sidewalks.

Council Member Margie Teall, D-4th Ward, was absent.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 1:46 p.m.

More west side focus. Ann arbor is lots more than just the west side of town people


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 1:43 p.m.

Waste of money to pay for a study when so much free talent here in town


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 6:25 a.m.

Pro tip: There isn't a change that has happened along Newport (the yellow light south of Forsythe, keeping the speed limit at 25, Newport/Wines School consolidation) with a "do it or we'll sue" attitude. It may have gotten a bus stop added there, but it doesn't build a neighborhood if jns131 is representative of those who want this sidewalk.


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 1:56 a.m.

The one thing I am not sure if they did do with that bridge is expand it so that children and others can cross it safely, expanding it to a nice sidewalk to walk to that suburbia area. If residents object? Then let them opt out of shoveling it. I can walk in snow. It is the slip and fall that might take notice. A sidewalk is needed nothing more nothing less.


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 7:56 p.m.

Why do we need a study? Just do it or don't do it. Does no one have the backbone to take responsibility for this decision?

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 6:28 p.m.

I was able to get the city to make available the maps showing who signed the petition for the sidewalk. If you're interested, you can download them here:


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 8:04 p.m.

I'm curious why there are no signatures from anyone along Newport Road? I would think that the neighborhood most affected would be the first place to try and gain support, but that might explain the very little information I have at all. This is coming across as us Newport pleebs should be grateful to maybe possibly receive private funding to keep changing our neighborhood to suit the desires of what acts like a gated community.


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 5:53 p.m.

There is a gap. Where do I collect my $15,000?

Dan Ezekiel

Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 5:03 p.m.

I am very happy to see the city move ahead with this. I teach at Forsythe and have been advocating for this for years. Because there is no safe walking route on Newport from the north, the school district runs an entire bus route that transports students who live as little as a quarter of a mile from their schools. The cost saving from eliminating this bus route (as well as the health benefits of students walking/biking to school safely) will far outweigh the ultimate cost of installing the sidewalk in the long term.


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 6:02 p.m.

I am not aware of any accidents involving children north of the schools. There have however been two south of Forsythe, one in the past few years and one approximately 30 years ago. Why the district transport children from the east side of that section where there also are no sidewalks? The district has been cutting or consolidating stops since 2011, yet the stop at Riverwood has been added in that time. There have been no incidents or changes in conditions to warrant a stop around 1,200 feet from the school. I would really like someone to explain the logic behind this. Do the Riverwood parents reimburse the district for this shamefully close stop? Its a cost which never should have occurred because there is no reason why a bus should be transporting that close. Others have to walk or be driven from 1.5 miles away, why is this stop so special? There is no major street to cross whatsoever and it is one of the safest, clearest stretches of Newport as far as visibility.

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 3:55 p.m.

For those questioning the $15,000 cost, it's my understanding that simply covers the normal staff time to draw up a design (which requires a bit of engineering work) and come up with a good cost estimate for construction. Council Member Briere is correct in reiterating that residents of the adjacent neighborhoods have asked to pay for the sidewalk, and if the sidewalk is built, the neighbors could be assessed the construction costs as well as the costs for the design work.

b fish

Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 3:18 p.m.

Reading comprehension is obviously not some peoples strong point. The study is for all the sidewalk gaps in the city. Not for a 1000ft stretch limited to the newport area. Although to be fair the articles title is misleading. Just look at it this way, would you rather the city just put in a sidewalk wherever citizens are concered, or do a comprehensive study, that will identify and prioritize which sections should be done. There are a number of other factors that should be evaluated. Things like storm water run-off are a good example. In the long run a study will actually save the city money. Some people just like to complain without reading all the facts. As someone who works in the planning field 15K upfront is actually low when you compare it to the cost of time and additional money that could be spent on unecessary additions. But if people, I dont know......... actually read the info, then they wouldnt exactly have anything to cry about now would they. Just speaks to how ignorant some people are.


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 3:28 p.m.

Article states: Since that vote, the city has launched two separate $15,000 studies to look into filling individual sidewalk gaps — first along Scio Church Road and now the area along Newport. Resolution to Develop a Preliminary Design and Cost Estimates for Construction of Sidewalk along Newport Road between Wines Elementary and Riverwood Drive and to Appropriate Funds to Establish a Budget for this Design ($15,000.00) (8 Votes Required)

Jack Gladney

Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 3:10 p.m.

Gotta love government. $15K to hire someone to tell them that there is no sidewalk on Newport Road between Sunset and Riverwood, and that kids walk to school there. I can save them some money and do the study for $11K.


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 2:41 p.m.

$15,000 for study/design of a sidewalk? This seems ridiculous. At $100/hr, this is 150 hours, or ~4 weeks of work. For a small stretch of sidewalk. Can anyone explain this to me why this should cost so much? How does this work?


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 2:19 p.m.

Does the Riverwood sub have sidewalks?


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 2:23 p.m.



Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 2:15 p.m.

As mentioned previously, a study seems like a HUGE waste of money. How much would a sidewalk actually cost? How about those 79 people go to Home Depot and buy $15,000 worth of premix cement, 2x4's and a shovel and go build the sidewalk themselves.


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 2:11 p.m.

looking at google maps it is less then a 1000 foot stretch . . .


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 2:03 p.m.

I live in the Riverwood neighborhood and am not at all supportive of this current plan. The original idea (as stated in the public forum meeting held at Wines Elementary) was to either widen Newport Road with bike lanes, add sidewalks, and/or place a meandering walking path from the M14 bridge to the city limit (around Rudolf Steiner school). Because some homeowners had concerns that mature trees lining Newport Road would be destroyed, the city planners seemed most interested in pursuing the 'meandering path' idea. The pupose was to provide a safer option for the runners, walkers, and bikers that pass through the area when heading to the Huron River area to exercise and for the school children that live in the many surrounding neighborhoods when walking or biking to school. The residents living along Newport Road and the surrounding neighborhoods were to be charged for this via an assessment. Somehow the original plans morphed into a sidewalk limited to the area around the M14 bridge to the Riverwood neighborhood. This new idea misses many of the original points of the project and seems to offer limited benefit to many of the constituents in the area.


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 2:46 p.m.

I'm right on Newport, and sadly the city already severely damaged/killed many older trees when adding us to the city water. Unfortunately, we're now left with bright green paint all over and in the case of my neighbor, a dead tree held up by the phone lines. There are however many mature trees which a sidewalk can work around. My concern though is whether or not there have been sufficient advance notice about meetings on this subject. I have been unable to attend the last two, and I doubt I am the only one. Newport was once a close neighborhood that was torn apart when the road was paved. This is something that really does need to be done properly so it doesn't have that affect again. We've known for decades that AAPS owned where Skyline was built, that the old farm fields and bogs would become Riverwood, and that we would eventually be annexed into the city. We've also known that sidewalks would come sooner or later. But it doesn't have to come at the expense of the rural atmosphere of Newport. (Oh, and city council- you still owe everyone with green paint at least a replacement seedling.)

Pete Warburton

Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 1:45 p.m.

FYI. Property owners in the Riverwoods Subdivison can not be charged for any sidewalk addition or improvement on Newport Rd. Please read the fine print.


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 1:39 p.m.

A study to build a sidewalk costing 15k. Not the sidewalk itself. A study. There is the problem. Those who can, do. Those who can't, commission an expensive study.

Elaine F. Owsley

Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 1:35 p.m.

Here's a free opinion. Built a sidewalk. See, that didn't cost $15,000. Surely somewhere in the city there is someone who knows how to build a sidewalk.

Jack Eaton

Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 1:34 p.m.

I agree with Kathy Griswold that the City should approach the subject of sidewalk gaps in a comprehensive manner. Let's identify all of the gaps, set criteria for selecting priorities and then start with the highest priority project and work our way down the list. It is nice that this neighborhood might pay the cost of this project. That does not remove the need for a comprehensive approach for other sidewalk gaps. We cannot do all of the sidewalks at the same time, so the City needs a method for determining its priorities.


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 2:23 p.m.

Agreed that we should have a comprehensive plan, not a "squeaky wheel" plan.


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 1:12 p.m.

In my day...........


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 6:34 p.m.

Wow, you had a school to attend?


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 1:22 p.m.

But seriously.I lived at Golfside and Packard ( north side ) and went to West Middle School.We did not have bus service but the south side of Packard did.You know why ? because that crappy ( it was crappy 35 years ago ) un maintained " bike path " was considered a side walk.So to finish my comment above " In my day....we walked to school uphill in the rain and three feet of snow...and we liked it ! "


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 1:20 p.m.

...up hill - both ways.

Ghost of Tom Joad

Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 1:11 p.m.

this is a standard procedure. First you make sure that you are spending the money in a necessary place, second you figure out if the design you want is the best option. This is not some sort of example of bloated government. This is the city responding to the residents' request. I honestly don't understand the uproar over this.


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 1:07 p.m.

Seems like you could put in most of the sidewalk for that much . . .


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 6:32 p.m.

You haven't seen the cost of concrete lately.


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 12:59 p.m.

Why pay for a "study" when the money could be saved, or used to construct the sidewalk?


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 2:21 p.m.

Really. Exactly what is there about concrete sidewalks that still needs to be "studied" in 2013?

Basic Bob

Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 12:56 p.m.

Is there a township island in this sidewalk gap? Would the city put a sidewalk through the township island or require annexation?

Sabra C Briere

Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 12:18 p.m.

Ryan Stanton included this important sentence: "The actual costs for construction of the new section of sidewalk is expected to be paid for by residents in neighborhoods adjacent to Newport Road." Residents of the adjacent neighborhoods have *asked* to pay for the sidewalk. If the sidewalk is built, they neighbors could be assessed the construction costs *as well as* the costs for the design work.


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 2:15 p.m.

It's not that simple. Beyond changing the feel of that stretch of Newport, which now has the ugly and urban looking fence sticking up on one side of the bridge, it will also affect the properties on Newport. There are no storm drains on that part of Newport. When it rains, there is a strong current to the water flowing down the road. This damages driveways, and in the case of Alexandria (unpaved) washes away the road. It also adds to the ground saturation and potential for basement flooding. It won't "just be a sidewalk" as runoff from additional non-porous surfaces has to be addressed. While the bus stop at Riverwood used to be a swamp, I doubt it would work well now as a holding pond for the raInwater. As a neighbor, I would not appreciate the added mosquitoes either. The Huron River is close enough though that there would need to be something done to address the issue and not send it into neighbors or to add to river pollution. Also, who will maintain the sidewalk in front of Bird Hills? Once there is a sidewalk, it has to be kept free from snow and ice so that would add to the costs for the city to keep it clear. Will someone from Riverwood volunteer to shovel the sidewalks for the church? They have a pretty big driveway to clear already, and it wouldn't be very generous to add to their burden. If the Riverwood neighborhood wants to fund a sidewalk from Sunset down to Rudolph Steiner, then I'm all for it. Do it right the first time with proper drainage, impact, lighting, snow removal assistance and tree care. Otherwise, build a pedestrian bridge from Riverwood straight across to Wines.

Cedric Richner

Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 12:06 p.m.

P.S. The "relatively few dollars" I mentioned previously, I'm all in favor of raising privately. It need not be funded through public dollars.


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 12:04 p.m.

79 people (not households) sign a petition and the mayor caves. Grow a backbone Mr. Mayor and then get a real job! I'm tired of neurotic crazy mommies needlessly directing our resources to their kids like the third High School we didn't need in their area. I go down that street all the time and I've never once seen a kid walking in danger. We "might" stop busing (not likely) so lets over-react by spending more money. Dumb.


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 11:05 p.m.

So if on that busy stretch we can sue you if a child or pedestrian is hurt or injured?

Cedric Richner

Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 12:02 p.m.

If sidewalks are installed it will be of tremendous benefit to multiple neighborhoods- and not just for residents of these areas that have school age children. A sidewalk on the west side of Newport will also provide upgraded and safer pedestrian access to Bird Hills for neighbors to the South of M-14. For residents to the North, they gain access- not only to the school campuses- but also safe pedestrian access that will enable them to walk on sidewalks all the way to downtown. This is a situation where, for relatively few dollars, tremendous positive impact will be created- for all residents.


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 12:17 p.m.

Did that access disappear recently? There has always been room to walk in the area in front of Bird Hills. The only exception to this is the few houses from Sunset to the bridge, but as they barely have yards to begin with, I don't know that they would be excited to lose that space. Unlike the area north of Bird Road, this is an area with a clear line of sight from a reasonable distance. I would support adding sidewalks to the blind curve from Bird Road to Warrington. I would support requiring property owners to maintain the pathway along Newport. But I don't support adding a random section of sidewalk just because one neighborhood won't let their kids walk a short distance to school.


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : noon

There is already a sidewalk over M-14, and most of the stretch between the bridge and Riverwood on the west side of the road are driveways. It is also already the widest stretch of walkway in the neighborhood. A better use of the $15,000 would be to enforce the speed limit on Newport. The danger comes when the bus that stops at Riverwood to take the kids less than a mile to Wines flies up Newport well above the speed limit. Use the additional revenue from speeding tickets to finish cutting down all the sick and damaged trees and then pick areas which need better lighting. This is closing a "sidewalk gap" solely to satisfy the Riverwood neighborhood. They are the ones who should carry the cost of any sidewalks in this area. The rest of us grew up walking across the M-14 bridge and the rest of Newport for the past 50+ years without mishap.


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 11:18 a.m.

I grew up on Newport Rd. We didn't have any sidewalks then and still made it to school!


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 11:03 p.m.

It has more to do with traffic then it has to do with walking up hill both ways in blinding snow. That stretch has needed sidewalks for years. Glad they are doing it now instead of seeing someone get hit.

An Arborigine

Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 5:07 p.m.

In the snow, against the wind?


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 12:54 p.m.

Did you walk uphill both ways?

Macabre Sunset

Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 11:10 a.m.

Oh great, now we have an expensive sidewalk gap to go with the achievement gap, the discipline gap and the parenting gap.


Wed, Jan 23, 2013 : 11:55 a.m.

Don't forget the Doomsday Gap.