Sidewalk project first of its kind

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Cape Girardeau leaders say they're serious about sidewalks and are making them a citywide priority. The 2007 Sidewalk Gap Program is the first of its kind.

The city council Monday approved a bid to fill 15,900 feet of sidewalk space in four different neighborhoods this summer.

"It's one of the things I like about it, with sidewalks it's always a positive. It improves any neighborhood," said city engineer Jay Stencel.

The $254,681 project is made possible through vote-approved Transportation Trust Fund 3 money in addition to remaining funds from the previous TTF.

The sidewalk spaces were identified as having maximum foot traffic and offering connections to existing trails and sidewalks.

They include Themis Street and Hawthorne Road west of Arena Park, Cape Rock Drive between Lexington Avenue and Perryville Road, and the Forest Hills Subdivision in the city's northeast quadrant.

Themis Street between East Rodney Drive and Mount Auburn Road is a stretch of road, Stencel said, that is crying out for help.

The street is lined with condominiums and apartment complexes whose occupants regularly walk to Arena Park to the east or stores to the west.

Today, pedestrians have two options: follow a well-worn "cattle path" through lawns or brave the street and hope motorists slow down.

"It would be very helpful to have sidewalks," said Toni Pruitt, who lives in the neighborhood and was out walking Tuesday. "Just to not have to walk in the grass; I actually twisted an ankle not too long ago."

Brandon Westfall, 23, and two friends take the second approach. Returning home after shopping at a convenience store, the men walked in the street as cars curled around them.

"They need to fix this, I'll say that right now. There's kids out here and it's too dangerous," Westfall said. "I've almost been hit a couple times."

At the Quick 'N Save store at 2861 Themis St., manager Sue Roberts said the sidewalks are long overdue.

"I think it's fantastic cause it keeps people off the grass and it'll be good for business," she said. The project will connect to Mount Auburn Road, which the city plans to widen and add sidewalks to later this year.

Several blocks north, Hawthorne Road, which connects neighborhoods to Clippard Elementary School, also has no walkways. The gap project calls for about 2,200 feet of new sidewalk between East Rodney Drive and a SEMO District Fair Drive.

"Hawthorne is one we had a lot of requests from students walking to school. It goes back 10 years, at least, that people were making the same request, and in fact one request goes back over 30 years," Stencel said.

The project does not call for sidewalks all the way west to Hopper Road; instead it will give walkers the ability to connect to the Cape LaCroix trail, which runs through the park and leads to Clippard Elementary School.

Clippard principal Sydney Herbst said about 50 students live in neighborhoods close enough to walk. Few, if any, do so, though, because of the dangers on Hawthorne Road, she said. These students are not eligible for bus service, which is restricted to those living more than one mile from school.

The bid for sidewalks was awarded to Lappe Cement Finishing Inc., which submitted the lowest of three bids at just more than $250,000. Lappe previously worked for the city when it was awarded the 4.9-mile sidewalk addition project on Lexington Avenue in 2005.

Lappe's performance on the project drew the ire of some area residents who said it took longer than expected and was done in a patchwork fashion.

Stencel is confident that will not be repeated. He said the current contract will allow Lappe to do work only on 2,000 feet of sidewalk at once. It also includes severe penalties for running over the 65-day time limit.

tgreaney@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 245

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