By CRAIG KLEIMEYER
New city council measures will help maintain Homewood as Alabama’s most walkable city, as it was ranked according to Walk Score in 2011.
The Homewood City Council approved a list of nine areas for sidewalk building and repairs on April 23. The city has allocated $900,000 for new sidewalks and $100,000 for sidewalk repairs in its 2011-2012 capital improvements budget.
“There is money, and we want to move quickly on the sidewalk projects,” Ward 5 Representative Peter Wright said. “It’s what the residents specifically asked for.”
Four city wards will have two new sidewalk projects each. Ward 5 will receive about $100,000 to improve three existing sidewalks.
“We have mostly old sidewalks that need repair,” Wright said.
The Homewood community came together for the first capital improvements public hearing one year ago.
“[Residents] sent a very clear and loud message that they love their sidewalks and they want more of them,” Wright said.
In October 2011, Fred Hawkins, a representative for Ward 2, approached the Regional Planning Commission of Birmingham (RPC) with former City Council member Tony Smith, and they purchased a $100,000 federal grant from RPC to study the sidewalks.
“We wanted an outside firm to come in for an outside opinion,” Hawkins said. “The staff looked at all of the sidewalks and determined where to get the most for the money, with safety as the first priority. We want to spend little money and get a lot of results.”
The RPC recommended about 50 areas for sidewalks, ranked highest to medium priority, and the City Council narrowed it to 12. Three additional areas will be considered if funding becomes available after the other projects.
For the projects close to schools, the City Council is working to see if the federal government will assist with some of the funding.
“A lot of work is already funded with our money, but we may try to stretch the money out even further,” Wright said. “It’s an ongoing process to find out.”
Hawkins and Smith want to create a program where the list extends year after year, and he hopes the money is available. This month the 2012-2013 capital improvements budget comes out and might include more money for next year.
“We will see if money is available,” he said. “We’re going to try to keep it going.”
Hawkins and the rest of the council hope to have a much longer list long-term, in order to get all of the sidewalks in better shape.
“Ten years from now, it will be really nice,” he said. “But we have to attack it every year.”
If the city has money left over, the City Council can make another list for this year and can do more than they have already planned. Ultimately, Hawkins said they want to please the community.
“We heard what they asked for, and we’re trying to deliver,” he said. “It’s going to take a long-term approach.”
Homewood City Council will notify the public if there will be any potential safety concerns, but the construction should not cause much of a problem with traffic, according to Hawkins. If a sidewalk in front of your house is being worked on, any inconvenience should not last long.
Hawkins said construction should hopefully begin soon.
“We’re still working out details on timing,” he said, “but we hope to get construction started this summer.”
Locations for New/Improved Sidewalks Projects
- Palmetto Street from Woodland Drive to West Linwood Drive
- Ridge Road from Oxmoor Road to Roseland Drive
- Roseland Drive from Ridge Road to the end of existing sidewalks near East Glenwood Drive
- Stuart Street from Peerless Avenue to St. Charles Street
- Oxmoor Road from Oakmoor Drive to Northmoor Lane
- Venetian Way from Oak Grove Road to Park Side Circle
- Columbiana Road from Carr Avenue to Oxmoor Road
- Manhattan Street from Dale Avenue to Clermont Drive
- Columbiana Road from Green Springs Highway to end of existing sidewalk east of Crest Avenue
- Rumson Road from Shades Creek Parkway to Windsor Drive
If funding is available, these alternates will get the next consideration:
- Mayfair Road from Ridge Road to Overton Park
- Huntingdon Road from Roxbury Road to US 31
- Saulter Road from Broadway Street to US 31