Sidewalks all they’re cracked up to be?
by Haisten Willis
April 27, 2014 04:00 AM | 3419 views | 6 6 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — An ongoing effort to add sidewalks near local schools continued this week as the Cobb County Board of Commissioners gave the go-ahead for new paths leading to Lassiter High School, Rocky Mount Elementary School and Riverside Intermediate School.

One new sidewalk, running 0.4 miles on Pete Shaw Road in northeast Cobb, will serve both Lassiter and Rocky Mount. The other is a tenth of a mile stretch on South Gordon Road in south Cobb, which leads to Riverside. Both projects were approved unanimously by the board.

“These sidewalks are part of our Safe Routes to School program,” said Jim Wilgus, deputy director of the Cobb County Department of Transportation. “Within a certain distance from a school zone these are to help students be able to walk to school.”

The Pete Shaw Road sidewalk contract was awarded to Glosson Enterprises, the low bidder at a cost of $347,632.19. Glosson will also install the South Gordon Road sidewalks, beating out six other bidders with a price of $123,316.31.

The projects are being paid for with a 1 percent sales tax voters approved in 2011. The Cobb DOT has a priority system for new sidewalks. Sidewalks near schools come first, sidewalks that fill gaps between existing paths are second and third are regular, requested sidewalks.

Wilgus estimated the two newest sidewalk paths will break ground in the next two or three weeks. The Pete Shaw Road sidewalk should take 180 days to build, while South Gordon should take 120 days.

Cobb District 3 Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, who represents northeast Cobb including Pete Shaw Road, said sidewalks provide a big benefit to the county.

“Schools are a priority because this makes it safer for the kids,” she said. “We’re also getting ready to start a project at Addison Elementary on Ebenezer Road, which is in my district.”

A needed improvement?

But not everyone agrees the sidewalks are worthwhile. Earl Smith, a former county commission chairman and namesake of the Earl Smith Strand Theatre, is an outspoken critic of the sidewalks, calling them a waste of taxpayer dollars.

He says the original purpose of the special purpose local option sales tax was to build roads and get people through the county.

“You can see how far away this is from what the initial intent was,” he said. “Look at the sidewalks that have been built, the fabulous bicycle trails throughout the county. Look and see how many people are riding them. Then we have to maintain them. Where are the people that are using these? They’re not using them. By and large they are not being used and we keep adding to them. Every year we stack them on because we’re trying to get the vote where we promised a sidewalk.”

But Birrell says the sidewalks get plenty of use. She walks the routes herself on Safe Routes to School Day.

“There is no sidewalk on the same side of the street as Addison for a few blocks down from the school,” she said. “When I’d walk with the kids, it’s like you’re walking in a ditch. It’s just not conducive or safe for those kids to walk to school from neighboring subdivisions without sidewalks.”

The commissioners meet with the Cobb DOT each year to look at where to install new sidewalks.

Comments
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At bus stops?
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April 28, 2014
It would be nice to have sidewalks and crosswalks to bus stops on Cobb Parkway. Why not add them to where they are really needed. Crossing Cobb Parkay to a bus stop without crosswalks is almost impossible and should have been in place before the bus stops were added.
Which Way Ray
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April 28, 2014
How about a side walk on Sandtown Rd between Pat Mall Rd and Austell Rd. It would be nice to not have to dodge people walking in the street with my car on that section of road.
Mike C
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April 27, 2014
I've lived in the Lassiter District since 1990 and all my children have graduated from Lassiter. Pete Shaw road is about 1.2 miles in length. As long as I've lived here the sidewalk extends from Sandy Plains Road for 0.1 miles. The new proposed sidewalks covers 0.4 miles, at the end of the road, covering 34 homes built since the year 2000. $10K per home if they have kids who attend Lassiter High School. Including Rocky Mount Elementary will probably require a new stop light or crossing guard. Including Rocky Mount Elementary was complete manipulation of the truth.
tax waste
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April 27, 2014
Agree with Smith - these sidewalks and others already built are nothing but boondoggles for cronyism. Come out to North and West Cobb and look at all the new sidewalks that go NO WHERE. The connect subdivisions between which no one walks and although they are in front of the schools, they stop at the next intersections. Where are these kids supposed to walk from? Are they supposed to be dropped off at the intersection and walk from there? For example, the new sidewalk in from of Frey Elementary and Durham Middle goes barely past the entrance on Mars Hill. A few blocks over, a new sidewalk goes almost all the way down Acworth Due West between subdivisions, ending no where relevant...on the other hand, if Mars Hill had a sidewalk going from Cobb Parkway to the Stilesboro intersection, people could walk to the numerous stores and restaurants in the Cobb Parkway and Stilesboro/Mars Hill area.
Just Wait
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April 27, 2014
Cobb County, home of sidewalks to nowhere.
anonymous
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April 27, 2014
sidewalks = payout to Chamber of Commerce cronies.
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