ALBANY — The 3-mile eastward stretch from the Broad Avenue bridge over the Flint River is heavily populated, and the lack of sidewalks has been identified as a major safety issue for pedestrians who walk along that route.
A grant proposal for a sidewalk construction project for the city of Albany failed to win approval, so it is back to the drawing board on how to pay for it.
The city applied for a grant for installing sidewalks on one side of East Broad Avenue from the railroad underpass east of south Broadway Street extending to North Mock Road. The route covers nearly 3.3 miles of roadway where there currently are no sidewalks.
The area is densely populated and includes several mobile home parks and apartments as well as businesses.
The grant proposal also included sidewalks on Broad Street, Radium Springs Road and several other streets, and would have provided 80 percent of construction costs, with the city’s matching share at $2.5 million.
The cost of the Broad Avenue portion of the project alone would cost about $3 million, Albany City Manager Sharon Subadan said.
“We do have a very high-level estimate on doing that, and it would take up a very large percentage of our SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax funding),” she said.
Subadan said she plans to bring a proposal to commissioners, but in order to free up funding, a decision will have to be made about reducing spending on something else budgeted in the sales tax.
For Ward I Commissioner Jon Howard, providing sidewalks along the busy roadway is important. The route also includes a portion of Ward II, represented by Commissioner Matt Fuller.
“That is some of the best money in seven sales taxes we have passed,” Howard said. “It would be a great relief for the individuals who would not have transportation or ride bikes out in the middle of the road or on the side of the road. I can speak for the 12,000 individuals of east Albany: That is a Christmas present.”
East Broad Avenue also is used by children walking to schools in the area, Howard said, and about four years ago three school children were struck by a car on Mock Road, one of them fatally.
The original proposal also would have extended sidewalks to the Wal-Mart shopping center area, another busy part of east Albany, he said. Sidewalks in east Albany also would benefit a portion of the city’s population that has been underserved in the past, Mayor Bo Dorogh said.
“There’s a lot of traffic on that street; more than that, it’s an arterial street,” the mayor said. “The issue is, for whatever reason or the other, we don’t have sidewalks on East Broad Avenue. I think it’s important that we address the perception ... that we need to invest equally throughout the city.
“Here we have an obvious deficiency in that we have this arterial street that doesn’t have sidewalks.”
Other areas in east and south Albany also have areas that suffer from the lack of sidewalks, Dorough said.
“Obviously people who live in east Albany, just like people in south Albany, believe there’s not equal investment in the city,” he said.
One option identified by Dorough is to reapply for grant funding, as it sometimes takes several rounds before limited federal and state funds can be secured. However, the sidewalk project is one of the most important on a list of infrastructure needs that is dominated by renovating the city’s aging sewage system.
“The cloud hanging over everything is the separation of sewage and storm water,” he said. “That will address localized flooding in south Albany.”
Howard said he hopes that fellow commissioners will help address the sidewalk issue when a proposal is presented.
“I think the support will be there,” he said. “The area has been overlooked. By putting the sidewalks there, people without transportation won’t have to worry about being hit walking out in the roadway.”