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The City of Castle Rock received a $200,000 grant this month to make its walk and bike paths near Exit 49 on Interstate 5 more pedestrian friendly and upgrade 27 ramps to meet the American with Disabilities Act standards.

The grant is part of the Washington Department of Transportation’s “Complete Streets” program, which encourages cities to create a transportation network that meets the needs of all road users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders.

WSDOT’s Transportation Improvement Board awarded $17 million in Complete Street grants to 47 cities this year. Castle Rock was the only city in Cowlitz County eligible for the award. (A city must have a Complete Streets ordinance in place and earn a nomination from one of eight state agencies before applying for the grant.)

“Last year the city made it a priority to establish a Complete Streets ordinance and policy that talks about providing access for everyone, regardless of ability or age,” said Castle Rock Public Works Director Dave Vorse. “That means making space for pedestrians and bicyclists in any transportation project going forward.”

About half of the grant money will fund a project to connect the business and residential areas on either side of I-5, Vorse said. That project includes adding crosswalks, a pedestrian relief island, parts of a walking and bike path and a protective landscaping strip separating foot/bicycle traffic from cars.

The project will “make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to navigate the area around Exit 49,” Vorse said. Additionally, connecting the neighborhood on the east and west sides of I-5 will remove a geographical barrier between those homes and the local schools, he said.

“That could mean other kids could walk to school and not necessarily be bused or driven by their parents,” which will increase their physical activity and social connections, as well as improve the environment, Vorse said.

Another $95,000 will go toward replacing several ADA ramps throughout the city.

“Those will be helpful for people getting from their homes to the business and places like churches and senior centers,” Vorse said.

The projects will be completed in two phases, with about half the plans finished in 2020 and the other half finished in 2021.

“The beauty of this is that when we complete these projects, we become eligible to apply for the grant again,” Vorse said.

The council adopted a Complete Streets ordinance last fall, though the city has taken a similar approach to its transportation projects since 2004, Vorse said.

Formalizing the city’s commitment to the Complete Streets approach was a “no brainer” for the community, he said.

“It’s who we are. It’s about quality of place, and it’s been really successful for us.”

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