Mar 302011

City infrastructure on North Broadway and Limestone

By Dave Cooper

After much community discussion and debate, construction will commence this summer on the construction of 1.6 miles of sidewalks on both sides of Tates Creek Road, from the Lansdowne Center to an expensive-sounding housing development called “The Enclave.”  The project is supposed to be completed by Fall 2011, at a cost of just over $1 million dollars.  There was initially some controversy about the project, even though the need for sidewalks was clear from the well-worn dirt path along the side of the busy road.

I’m happy for the pedestrians in the Tates Creek Road area, and I’m happy that the Enclavians can now easily walk to the Embry’s in Lansdowne in order to purchase coats made from the carcasses of small, tortured dead animals.  But I feel discouraged that it has taken almost four years from the time that the need for the sidewalks was first identified (via a public survey in 2007) until the time the concrete will be poured.

Sidewalk 1

Pedestrian troubles in north side need city attention.

I bike a lot on North Limestone, and I see more pedestrians walking in these neighborhoods than along Tates Creek.  But of course, most of them are just poor folks, and they probably just didn’t have the time or inclination to fill out that survey on needed sidewalks back in 2007.

The west side of North Limestone is a series of parking lots and puddles and gravel patches with trash piles in front of neglected businesses and older homes. It’s an uninviting place to walk, to say the least.

But even worse is North Broadway, from New Circle Road south to the Legends baseball stadium.  At the underpass for the railroad bridge over North Broadway, the road has been cut through a limestone hill.  About six months ago, street maintenance crews came in with backhoes and dug out the drainage ditches along the road, apparently to try and solve the flooding problems that occur beneath the railroad overpass.  Perhaps not realizing how heavily this area is used by pedestrians (there are no sidewalks, after all) the crews piled much loose limestone on the side of the road, where a well-worn pedestrian dirt path used to be.  The loose rock is unstable, and twists and rolls under your foot as you try and navigate the path.  Walking in the four-lane street is almost unthinkable, due to the heavy and fast-moving traffic.

I spent about two hours on a recent Saturday morning with a shovel, removing loose limestone rock from the path.  Several pedestrians walked by quietly as I worked, a young man in a large black pickup truck yelled something insulting and unintelligible at me as he sped past.  It wasn’t a fun job, but the path is a little better now.

As I worked, I struck up a conversation with Victoria Oliver and Elizabeth Martin, who live in the Northside Apartments (next to the baseball stadium).  Elizabeth was walking to work at the Hardee’s on the corner of New Circle and North Broadway, and Victoria was walking with her.  I asked them about their commute to work.

“It’s too dangerous,” said Oliver, pointing to the rocky path.  “I trip and fall into the street.  It almost gives me an anxiety attack!”

Elizabeth mentioned that a co-worker at Hardee’s, Rhonda, had twisted her ankle on the path.  “And it’s worse when it rains.”

They told me some stories about various critters that they’ve seen walking along the path: snakes, raccoons and possums, which frighten them.  But the scariest thing is the railroad overpass, which has huge concrete abutments that act as a bottleneck for North Broadway.  Underneath the bridge, there is no room for pedestrians at all.

“I like to walk – it’s good exercise.  But it’s not very safe,” said Oliver.  “I have to squeeze through under that railroad bridge.”  I asked them about installing sidewalks along the road, and they both liked the idea.  “I think it would make it a lot safer,” said Oliver.

I have even seen mothers pushing baby strollers in the street on North Broadway, because there is nowhere else for them to walk.

A lot of northsiders walk to Wal-Mart and to the bus stops.  Some are recent immigrants, some are poor and can’t afford cars.  It seems to me that the folks that need sidewalks the most—poor folks without any transportation—are being ignored.

Maybe nothing can be done about the bottleneck under the railroad bridge, but there definitely need to be more sidewalks on North Broadway and North Limestone.  Contact your LFUCG city council representative and Mayor Jim Gray, and tell them that the north side folks need sidewalks more than the Enclavians.

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