Students in West Linda Get More Safe Routes to Schools
Yuba County receives $21 million for project that will fund sidewalks, bike lanes, and storm drains
February 23, 2023: Sidewalks connect pedestrians to their neighborhoods; They are an avenue for dog walks, evening family strolls, and a safe, healthy way for kids to get to school. In the community of West Linda in Yuba County, sidewalks are not a prominent neighborhood feature, but work is being done to change that. At the end of 2022, Yuba County received $21 million from California’s Active Transportation Program, a boost that will provide more pleasant pedestrian connections.
Daniel Peterson, public works director for Yuba County, recalls when he started at the county in 2014, “right away the consensus from the entire public works department was that we needed to do whatever we could to improve safety around schools.” As a father of five and grandfather of nine, Peterson was surprised the first time he saw young kids walking in dirt paths along the roads, or when they were in the road with traffic because the paths were flooded. Calling himself the grandfather for all the schools in Yuba County, he has made it his mission to make it safer for students.
The West Linda Comprehensive Safe Routes to School Project is more than just sidewalks. West Linda contains remnants of California’s gold-hungry past when a mining company bought the community and moved it to its current location south of Marysville so they could dredge for more gold. The lingering impact has been piecemeal construction of neighborhoods, with little forethought into planning that has left the community without stormwater drainage or sidewalks.
The center of the project is near Cedar Lane Elementary and New Life Christian schools and is set up to be a catalyst of transformation for the area. Students will soon enjoy walking to school on new sidewalks, or riding in new bike lanes, and will no longer worry about standing water thanks to new storm drains. “We are completely transforming the community,” added Peterson.
It might seem like a small detail, but storm drains have played an important role in securing the funding needed for the project. At the state level, there is big competition with larger cities and counties and limited funds available, Peterson was concerned that Yuba County’s application could easily be overlooked: “I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to compete with places like San Francisco or Roseville.” He shared that the county needed some major financial backing to stand out and earn points for their application.
That’s where Yuba Water Agency stepped in. SACOG board member and chair of the Yuba Water Agency, Gary Bradford said, “The project was more than just sidewalks, and it was the perfect opportunity for a partnership. Yuba Water Agency had an interest in reducing flood risk by adding storm drains and is committed to helping improve neighborhoods for residents.” The agency pledged more than $5 million for the initial investment in the project and helped the county’s proposal stand out from the rest.
Peterson is retiring in July of this year and sees this as his farewell song: “I know it’s silly. If people ask me why I work, the ability to do these projects in these neighborhoods and improve your own community—there’s nothing like it. The fact that we can make such change and provide such benefit in the lives of our residents is a huge part of what drives us.”