Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Mayor Cooper thinks 3.78 miles of new sidewalk a year is something to brag about. If you live on Timmons Ave, expect sidewalks in 2122.

by Rod Williams, April 27, 2022 - In Mayor John Cooper's State of Metro address yesterday he said, "Nashville needs more sidewalks." We can all agree with that. We have been adding sidewalks at a snail's pass. 

Mayor Cooper seems to think we are doing a good job.  "This fiscal year, NDOT has added over 20,000 linear feet of new sidewalk," he said. "Total sidewalk completions are up over 10%. And costs are down. Brick Church, Cane Ridge, Maplewood, Herman, West Hamilton, and Andrew Jackson are projects getting done in the next 7 months. And we are adding a new crew to repair broken sidewalks and curbs faster."

"20,000 linear feet of new sidewalks?" One mile equals 5280 feet, 20,000 feet/5280 = 3.78 miles. Is that something to brag about? So, how many miles of sidewalks does Nashville need. I don't know. For the areas with really big lots, in areas that were rural and built without a subdivision plan, I assume they will just never get sidewalks. That still leaves a lot of areas needing sidewalks. Look at a map of Nashville and you will see very few sidewalks outside of the areas build after the era of streetcars. 

I don't know how many miles are needed, but I am guessing that if you live on Sutton Hill Avenue, or Grandview Drive, or Kline Ave, or Mcalpine Ave, or Timmons Ave, I wouldn't look for sidewalks before the year 2122. These areas are streets with pretty small lots and not that far from downtown.  If you live further out, for each mile further away add about a hundred years. I may be exaggerating but people should know what year, if ever, they can expect a sidewalk. 

This is ridiculous. We do not have to build sidewalks the way we do. When Nashville builds sidewalks, we build the best sidewalks possible with curbs and gutters and new drainage. A city must take into consideration the drainage and that is a major cost of new sidewalks. The city should not cause flooding to occur where it does not now occur.  So doing this requires some engineering. However one can build sidewalks that meet this requirement without new curbs and cutters. My daughter has been living in a nice neighborhood in Franklin while renovating the home they purchased in Woodbine. The street she is on has curbs and cutters with the sidewalks. When I visit her, we often take a walk. On the side streets in her neighborhood, there are streets with sidewalks but without the expensive curbs and gutters. It can be done.

Also, in Nashville, we make sure all of our sidewalks conform to the Americans with Disabilities Act. We are supposed to but I suspect we are too meticulous about our compliance. Sometimes it is better to get forgiveness than permission. Build it and if we failed to get a curb-cut right, fix it later. If we build it where the steepness of the slope did not allow compliance, then there surely must be exemptions from compliance. 

I am not an expert on the ADA compliance or the curbs and gutter issue, but I have seen sidewalks in other cities where they were many sidewalks that were obviously built to less exacting standards than our sidewalks. 

Also, we tear up and replace barely used sidewalks.  I walk. In my neighborhood of Woodland-in- Waverly and in the neighborhood west of 8th Ave, between 8th and 12th, I know of sidewalks that had very little wear and tear, sidewalks that were perfectly serviceable with only the occasional hairline cracks, that were replaced with new sidewalks. I walk these sidewalks. Why were they replaced with new sidewalks? Why? 

Another thing I would look at is who is getting the money. Metro has engineers. Are we paying outside subcontractors for engineering to design our sidewalks? We have lawyers. Are we paying outside legal firms to acquire the construction easements? I don't know, but these are questions to ask. Having observed Metro in action for many years, I know that we sometimes pad projects to help local professionals. I know it used to occur. I doubt things have changed. All of the lawyers and engineers who make campaign contributions are probably expecting a return. I don't know this, but it is something to investigate. 

Building 3.78 miles of new sidewalks a year is nothing to brag about. We can do better.

For more of my reporting on the failure of our sidewalk expansion program, see the following: 

Only an idiot would require a sidewalk to be build like this. Why can we not sanely build sidewalks?

Perfectly Serviceable Sidewalks being Ripped up and Replaced with New Sidewalks!

Why are they tearing up perfectly good sidewalks?

Replacing good sidewalks with new sidewalks; no wonder we are broke.

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