October 3, 2012 Leave a comment
In an effort to better understand city-level financing, we interviewed Charles D. Herbertson, Director of Public Works/City Engineer and Helen Kerstein, Management Analyst for Culver City (“City”). The interviews helped us understand the City’s programs, method of allocating funding and funding sources. We also discovered the City’s very pro-active planning culture that is being embraced by the City’s Department of Public Works.
Charles and Helen explained a number of strategies for dealing with everything from prioritization of projects to obtaining matching funds for grants that they receive. In particular, we were inspired by three examples of the city’s forward thinking actions that they shared with us.
First, Culver City has recently executed an inventory of sidewalk conditions throughout the city. This inventory was completed to prioritize the expenditure of funds based on the severity of sidewalk damage. The information will be used to improve the entire pedestrian network in the City. Then, after improving sidewalk infrastructure access for pedestrians, the City plans to divide the network into quadrants and regularly reassess conditions. The sidewalks in each quadrant will be assessed and repaired if necessary at a minimum of every four years.
Second, the City coordinates the efforts to manage and integrate related projects. For example, when a street is resurfaced, if it is supposed to receive some sort of bicycle treatment (i.e. striping), then the work will happen concurrently. This policy saves the Public Works Department time and money, especially with sandblasting and re-striping for new bicycle infrastructure. It is not just about the money, beyond saving, this coordination helps build bicycle infrastructure as quickly as possible.
Third, Culver City actively pursues competitive grants as a source of funding its infrastructure improvements. Recently they were awarded a generous grant ($570,000, according to this article about the project) from the Baldwin Hills Conservancy which will mostly fund safety improvements at a key access point to the Baldwin Hills recreation area. The City is providing roughly $185,000 in matching funds. The programming and infrastructure changes from this grant will benefits all road users, including the installation of a full traffic signal with pedestrian countdown heads and bike lanes. For more information on the work that is being completed here, click here for more information.
These highlights and takeaways from the interview with Culver City staff showcases the City’s innovative approach and commitment for developing into an active transportation friendly municipality in Southern California. We believe that Culver City stands as an ideal example for cities that strive to make the most of their available finances while focusing their efforts on improving conditions for citizens and enabling active modes of transportation.