Kim Wallan, who has lived at the corner of Woodlawn Avenue and Modoc Drive in Medford for seven years, said she was tired of the dust, dirt and lack of sidewalks and had been looking forward to having her street paved. The city decided drop the plan after federal officials withdrew funding that would have paid for more than 80 percent of the project. - Bob Pennell

City halts Woodlawn project after losing grant

MEDFORD — Kim Wallan was disappointed to learn Monday that a long-awaited project to put pavement and sidewalks on her street has gone by the wayside.

The public works department has scrapped plans to widen Woodlawn Drive after federal officials decided to withhold $376,866 previously authorized for the $450,000 project. Grant reviewers determined the Woodlawn project included building a new piece of road, which made it ineligible for funding in the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program, or CMAQ.

CMAQ grants can be made only for improving roads that already exist.

Wallan, who has lived at the corner of Woodlawn Avenue and Modoc Drive for seven years, said the dust and dirt wafting into her home was disturbing, along with the lack of sidewalks, and she had been looking forward to what she saw as needed upgrades.

Others in the neighborhood weren't so enthusiastic. Forest Sexton, who lives on Woodlawn Drive, said he never saw the point of stirring up the quiet little neighborhood.

"The city was pushing through a worthless project," he said. "Why spend that money?"

In June Medford revealed plans to widen a four-block stretch of Woodlawn and connect it to another section of Woodlawn that intersects Barneburg Road. The section that was under consideration runs from Holmes Park on the east to a foot path on the west that connects to Barneburg.

Neighbors collected 30 signatures on a petition asking the city to consider alternatives to the proposal, which would have transformed a street that's as narrow as 20 feet in some places to 62 feet, including sidewalks and landscape strips.

The footpath would have been paved to connect two short, dead-end sections of Woodlawn. The project also would have paved two unimproved portions of the street. Neighbors' concerns included loss of many old trees as well as an increase in traffic flow in the quiet neighborhood.

Nicholas Fortey, an engineer with the Federal Highway Administration in Salem, said a Medford resident contacted the agency to inquire about the funds for the project.

"The project narrative seemed a little different than what the citizen relayed," said Fortey. So agency engineers spoke with Medford engineers and learned that the foot path, which was slated for paving, was not already open to vehicles. That made the project ineligible for CMAQ funds, which are available only for improving existing roadways.

Fortey said the terms of the grant might have been misinterpreted.

"I don't think there's anything untoward," he said.

Federal officials said Medford could resubmit the project for consideration, but public works director Cory Crebbin said the city will not pursue the project any further at this time. He said Medford has full street right-of-way through the footpath, and engineers were not trying to mislead the federal agency.

Sexton said he was glad to learn the project wasn't going forward because it would spend thousands of dollars to benefit relatively few people. He said there were more heavily traveled gravel roads that could benefit from paving.

Wallan, a runner, said she always seeks out streets with sidewalks for her three-mile runs, and she had been looking forward to Woodlawn getting its own sidewalks. She said she didn't share her neighbors' worries about increasing traffic because Woodlawn dead ends into Holmes Park.

"I'm disappointed but not devastated so I'm probably not going to do anything about it," she said. "It's not a hill I'm willing to die on."

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail

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