By Jean Feroldi

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Charlottesville is updating its plans for sidewalk improvements by revising a 13-year-old wish list.


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The

Planning Commission

on Tuesday reviewed a draft sidewalk prioritization plan. The proposal replaces a 1997 sidewalk priorities list that pointed to 99 key locations in the city needing improvements. Only a third of the projects on that list have been completed.

A 12-member “sidewalk committee” is recommending a new review process, focused on proximity to schools, so the city can prioritize the $300,000 allocated in next year’s budget. The committee has identified “circles” around city schools that are not served by school bus routes.

“If the school buses aren’t stopping within these areas then [there is] a good chance that sidewalks would help get kids to school,” said

Angela Tucker

, the city’s development services manager. “That is why we have zeroed in on school proximity as a good starting place.”


Commissioners recommended that additional factors such as low-income areas or commercial zones be taken into consideration.

“I would like to see where we could overlay other criteria such as income and age and perhaps just general walkability, proximity to the things where people would be walking, so that we get the biggest bang for our buck,” Commissioner

Genevieve Keller

said.

The Planning Commission was concerned that the proposed plan was leaving out certain neighborhoods where sidewalks are greatly needed by people for access to public transit or for health reasons. Chairman

Jason Pearson

advised the sidewalk committee to analyze other areas of the city not located within school circles.

“I am uncomfortable with schools as a first cut [and] then everything else goes inside those circles with … what I would call random public input as the only thing that generates an identification to need outside those circles,” Pearson said. “The city should be much more intelligent and systematic about thinking about where we need sidewalks.”

The committee had identified 370 locations in need of sidewalk improvements near schools. Then it applied other criteria including connector streets, streets without sidewalks, functional roadway classification and proximity to transit stops and parks. The list also includes areas of concern suggested by residents during public hearings.

Commissioner

Michael Osteen

approached the new sidewalk plan from a different direction, saying that the process could be less rigorous if viewed in another way.

“Where is it appropriate not to have sidewalks?” Osteen questioned. “Let’s see all the roads that don’t really want sidewalks or need sidewalks and maybe the problem is not as big.”

The new plan will be revised every five years and have a shorter, more manageable list of specific roads where sidewalks are necessary. City officials said this would allow for continuous resident input and ensure that the sidewalk goals can be accomplished in a timely manner.

The final sidewalk prioritization plan will be reviewed and voted on by the Planning Commission and the City Council later this summer.


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