Still walking...

Where was it that I finished last week? I feel that I blabbered on about me and my career too much. So this week I want to take up where I left off; not more about my life story, but something about possibly a strange civic passion of mine – sidewalks. Pedestrian mobility engagement that is one of my highest priorities.

The revamped stretch of highway along the front of Chesterfield Meadows Shopping Center, passing the Old Courthouse and the Government Complex and ending just short of the, what I call the new Courthouse, (officially from Greenyard Road to Frith Lane), has no sidewalks. This one seems like a no brainer. The center of our county government, the county seat, where every potential big business is in the evaluation of business properties and ends up on their way to visit the economic development department should be wowed.

That section of highway should not just be a wide section of pavement, but a demonstration of where we are headed as a county. A demonstration of how we value the health of the work force they will eventually hire.

Think about it this way: There are 2500 employees that work for the county. Granted, not all work at the government complex. How and where do they get lunch? Some go to Burger King: many eat at Martin’s; some at Tropical Smoothie Sub Shop; Ledo’s; Hunan Garden, Wendy’s, El Patron, Ichibon, Geno’s; and for a mid-morning coffee, Starbuck’s and the (gas station) and many more restaurants and shops. How do employees get to those shops? They drive their car for the most part. They’re certainly not walking the sidewalk and burning some of that Wendy’s number 1 they just consumed. And, where does that brand new sidewalk that CVS build go? Did the county require that or did they do that on their own.

Healthwise, maybe they have taken the marketing step, telling their customers that it is healthy to walk once in a while, offering a means to do so. Come to think of it, the new CVS free standing stores all have sidewalks. And, they lead to nowhere.

On other projects, let’s take those just on Iron Bridge Road from Chester to the courthouse: Uppy’s corporate headquarters; Grand Oaks Apartments; Iron Mill Townhouses: Magnolia Lakes and Tyler’s Retreat. Only Uppy’s and Grand Oaks connect. Were these part of the proffer process? And why were they such an important part of the developer’s proffers? Does the county’s transportation department push developers for sidewalks or are the developers concerned citizens that realize how important they are for the health and safety of citizens?

“Walking is our most basic form of transportation. Every trip we make, even by car, we begin and end as pedestrians,” according to Project Universal Access.

Even the ancient Romans, when building roads that had the heavy traffic of carts and horses, built sidewalks to make their pedestrians safer. Wider pedestrian  sidewalks were built where pedestrian use was more intense.  

What is our cost for sidewalks? According to a study done by Knox County, Tenn., the cost of a typical project on a major thoroughfare is $70 per foot for each side. That means that the cost of the widened Route 10 at Centralia Road would have been a little over $500,000 for one and $1.1 million for both sides of the road.

The Romans thought it important enough to protect their citizens from horses and carts zooming by pedestrians. Think about today when 40,000 cars use a section of highway every day. Just because those who make decisions on such things never walk anywhere doesn’t mean the rest of us don’t.

I see a number of people and “children” walking in the street where I live when I’m coming and going from work. How many walk on my street when I’m not there to observe?

I see hordes of school kids walking from Thomas Dale annex to the main high school continuously. If there were no sidewalks there, what would be the result? Correct me if I’m wrong, but haven’t there been at least two children crossing the street on bicycles hit there? Not on the sidewalk, but it is an example of the growth we have experienced and the need for pedestrian ways on all busy roads.

There were at least three people killed crossing the railroad tracks near the proposed new bridge to be built on Jefferson Davis Highway north of Perrymont. If you explored the area, you will also see trails that lead down to the tracks on each side for pedestrians to cross the tracks. I also see some walking along the curb on the pavement of the same bridge because there are no sidewalks.

There will be no sidewalks on that bridge when it is rebuilt. During a public hearing on the proposed bridge someone asked, “Isn’t there a state law that requires sidewalks?” The answer?

A defensive no.

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