The continuing effort on the part of Salt Lake County to construct neighborhood sidewalks near schools is a worthy effort, but also the cause of considerable frustration.
During the explosive growth of suburban housing in Salt Lake County in the decades after World War II, sidewalks were not required in the construction code for what formerly was "out in the country." That situation finally was corrected and sidewalks mandated, but many homes and neighborhoods were built without them.As the county has become wall-to-wall suburbia in many places, that lack of sidewalks has been increasingly distressing. Children walk to school along increasingly congested streets. Some have been injured and even killed.
The county has been trying to install sidewalks in such residential areas, but they are very expensive. There are 30 such jobs waiting for funding and those probably represent only areas where enough people have complained to get on the project list. Officials have established a hazard index to help them rank many of the schools in terms of greatest need.
But it is estimated that at the current funding level, it could take over five years and more than $5 million to complete only half the list.
One suggested solution is worth taking seriously: the creation of special improvement districts for levying a tax on properties specifically for sidewalk construction.
There is no citizen vote required.
Instead, the county is required to hold a public hearing and in the absence of powerful objections creates such a district.
If a majority of property owners in the area then protest the special tax that must be imposed to provide the necessary funding, then the project is killed.
It is a simple process and is much fairer than a general tax because it is localized and its benefits accrue directly to the neighborhood involved.
It is the only likely way that these sidewalks will be completed for many years - and since the safety of school children and others is at stake - officials should start now.