Kids on bicycles. Mothers with strollers. Senior citizens. All have been seen day and night walking or riding next to U.S. Highway 6-34 on their way to Walmart.
In fact, Public Works Director Kyle Potthoff said at Monday night's regular city council meeting that he spotted two pedestrians this past weekend walking along side the highway at night, both barely visible in dark clothes and one walking backwards against the wind.
It's a safety issue the city has been aware of and at Monday night's meeting, the McCook City Council finally took matters in its own hands. By a unanimous vote, the council voted to use $60,000 in city funds to build a sidewalk on the south side of the highway and to de-obligate the city from grant funding that was awarded for the project.
Using city money will cost less than the spiraling costs of the project and the corresponding matching funds, said City Manger Kurt Fritsch.
"It's a safety issue ... (the sidewalk) should have been built years ago," he said.
But one McCook citizen disagreed. John Hubert told the council that he objected to spending city money in that location.
The sidewalk was orignally part of the McCook Walking Trail system and in 2007, was awarded $60,942 by the Nebraska Department of Roads in grant funding, toward the total cost of $101,570. The city's match, at 40 percent, was $40,628.
Normally, matching grants are 20 percent but for this part of the trail to be funded, the matching portion was bumped up to 40 percent, as it didn't fit the true definition of a nature trail, Potthoff told the council.
Since that time, costs have increased to $150,000 due to inflation, additional preliminary engineering requirements and local public agency oversight.
The city could ask for additional funding, but the chance was slim, Potthoff said, as the extent of the project has remained the same. Funding could be granted toward engineering costs but the city's match would also increase, he added.
He and City Engineer Greg Wolford discussed the issue with Sinclaire Hille, which is used by the NDOR to oversee the transportation enhancement program, the agency that allocates grants. Refusing grant funds for this project would not give the city a "black eye," Potthoff said, as they were told it happens every year.
Construction could start this spring and include a crosswalk light at the intersection of U.S. Highways 6-34 and 83. It would be tied into the traffic light and activated by those using the sidewalk, said Wolford. In response to a question by Councilman Jerry Calvin, Wolford and Potthoff agreed that it would slightly affect traffic patterns.
Drivers would have to become aware of the change, Potthoff admitted. "It would be a learning curve there," he said.
But as it is now, without a crosswalk light, pedestrians have to dash across the highway, Councilman Mike Gonzales pointed out.
The sidewalk would be five feet wide, instead of the eight feet if grant funding was used. Currently there is a highway on the north side of the highway in front of Burns Podiatric Lab, that turns onto U.S. Highway 83 and goes by McDonalds. The cross walk light would enable those on that sidewalk to cross the intersection to the south side, Wolford said.
The council seemed in agreement that the sidewalk was a long time coming.
"We don't want to drag this out any longer," Councilman Aaron Kircher said.