As a city councilman, you often hear from neighborhood groups and individuals about the need/desire for more sidewalks, a safer way to get around the neighborhood on foot or bike. In a May 10 Shopper article, I wrote about the five criteria the city’s engineers use to assign priority to sidewalk segments to build.
Let’s focus on quantity. Currently, Knoxville builds roughly a mile-plus of new sidewalks and rebuilds another mile-plus of reworked/repaired walks each budget year. How can we build more?
Sidewalks: everybody wants them, but few will get them, unless the budget changes, or neighborhood groups band together to gift property to the city. That was the takeaway from an informational meeting presented to city council members by Public Works director David Brace last week.
The city’s budget for new sidewalks is approximately $750,000 per year. The cost of new sidewalks ranges from $100 to $300 per linear foot, depending on the challenges of the terrain and the cost of purchasing right-of-way.
Those Who Pay Attention know that the Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission has been working on new subdivision requirements. The final draft was on this month’s MPC agenda, but staff requested a one-month postponement to allow for more public input.
This was primarily because the first draft of the document included language that required sidewalks to be installed on one side of the street in new city and county subdivisions while two subsequent drafts did not.
Rhonda L. Gallman has qualified as a write-in candidate for House District 15, which was previously held by Joe Armstrong. She lives at 2431 Hoitt Ave. in North Knoxville. Her nickname, according to her signed form, is Mousie, and her phone is 865-936-4647.
Gallman has spoken several times at public forum before City Council in the past year although she has not voted in a city election for the past 16 years. She is African-American as are Rick Staples, Democratic nominee, and independent Pete Drew. The district is majority Caucasian.
The fate of the much-publicized effort for a new sidewalk in West Hills along Sheffield from Wesley Road over to Vanosdale is not good for this year’s city budget as both Mayor Rogero and Vice Mayor Duane Grieve (who represents West Hills) are not supporting its inclusion in the budget.
This is a case where term limits work against the voters who no longer have a voice in the political future of Grieve or Rogero. They leave office respectively in 2017 and 2019.
Lots of questions about sidewalks have surfaced lately. Go to any community meeting in this city. Everyone wants more sidewalks: kids walking to school, moms pushing strollers, exercisers completing those 10,000 steps, other folks just enjoying a casual stroll out of harm’s way.
What is holding us back? Money, for one thing. Sidewalks are costly, and budgets are finite. The work is included as part of the city’s budget process. Local tax dollars, not state money, pay for the work.
If you want to see a bunch of happy pedestrians, visit Cherokee Boulevard on a spring evening. You’ll see them in droves, tripping through the dogwoods, safe on a wide median. It’s one of my favorite exercise spots.
Contrast that with present-day Cumberland Avenue. Last week, I strolled down to the Strip from the hospital for lunch. I’ve got my eyes on the prize (an attractive, pedestrian-friendly streetscape), but for now, it’s anything but. Torn up sidewalks and irritated drivers made for a stressful trek.