Dayton is going after new federal funding to help build a $5 million pedestrian bridge to make it much safer and easier to get across U.S. 35 near the new West Branch Library.
“This is really critical,” said Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein. “Young and old cannot cross that road easily to get to a really important community asset.”
The city has submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Transportation seeking $2.5 million in funding from a new Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program.
The program has a 50% local match requirement, and the city proposes contributing $2.5 million of its own funding for the project. The city may be able to use other federal funding sources for some of the match.
The bipartisan infrastructure law that Congress passed and President Joe Biden signed into law late last year provides $1 billion over the next five years to the pilot grant program.
The program seeks to reconnect communities that have been cut off from economic opportunities because of transportation infrastructure.
Planning and construction grants can be used to remove, retrofit, mitigate or replace transportation infrastructure facilities, the U.S. Department of Transportation said.
Street-level pedestrian crossings at U.S. 35 and Abbey Avenue in West Dayton are dangerous, but some people use them to get to the new Dayton Metro Library West Branch, located at 300 Abbey Ave.
Only about 10 pedestrians cross U.S. 35 at Abbey Avenue each day, but that is likely to increase fivefold or sixfold because of the opening of the new library and the planned redevelopment of the rest of the site, says the city’s federal grant application.
The library, which opened in January, was built on the 54-acre former Delphi plant property, which is home to the historic Wright brothers’ airplane factory hangars.
The city hopes to see the site redeveloped into a mixed-use “community asset” that has a walkable campus.
Some residents who live south of U.S. 35 currently do not have a direct route to get to the site, unless they cross the highway, which has a total of eight traffic and turn lanes.
The intersection is 138 feet wide, and pedestrians have about 49 seconds to cross.
City officials and neighbors say the intersection is dangerous for everyone, but it’s especially challenging for children, the elderly and people with disabilities.
U.S. 35 in that area has a 50 or 55 mph speed limit and about 35,000 vehicles use the roadway every day.
“With the increase in pedestrians trying to cross the freeway ... it is only a matter of time before there is a pedestrian crash resulting in a serious injury or fatality,” says the city’s grant application.
The pedestrian bridge project would provide a safe crossing alternative and would “weave back together the fabric of this community torn apart by the highway,” the application says.
About 90% of residents in some of the impacted West Dayton neighborhoods are Black, and more than four in 10 households do not have access to vehicles, the city said, citing Census data.
“The city of Dayton views this project as transformative and instrumental in bolstering the reinvestment into this community as it transitions from industrial centric to a walkable, green community,” the application states.
U.S. 35, which was completed in the late 1980s, created a barrier between West Dayton neighborhoods that reduced access to local amenities and negatively impacted quality of life for residents in some areas, says a letter from Jack Marchbanks, director of the Ohio Department of Transportation.
ODOT provided a letter saying it supports and co-sponsors the city’s grant application for the pedestrian bridge project.
“The project will remove barriers to connectivity in adjacent neighborhoods and increase non-motorized access and mobility in the area,” Marchbanks wrote.
Nearly 300 West Dayton residents visit the West Branch Library every day, and countless others will benefit from future development at the site, Jeffrey Trzeciak, the Dayton Metro Library’s executive director, said in a letter in support of the grant application.
Neighborhood residents on both sides of U.S. 35 supported putting the new West Branch at that location, and the library’s only reluctance was its concern for the safety of patrons who would cross the highway, Trzeciak wrote.
Trzeciak said the highway is a “sad symbol” of redlining and other institutional decisions that harmed people of color in West Dayton.
“An overpass bridge would be a major neighborhood asset to help address past wrongs,” he wrote.
The city also has issued a request for proposals for a feasibility study for a pedestrian bridge at Abbey Avenue.