Special sidewalk committee calls for urgent changes, dedicated funding

Local News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The year 2020 is on track to set another record for pedestrian deaths in Nashville.

Metro Nashville’s Special Sidewalk Committee has released new findings that the group hopes will lead to solutions.

Just over five weeks into the new year, there have been six pedestrian deaths in Metro Nashville.

“We’re in a really unprecedented crisis in pedestrian deaths,” said Nora Kern, Executive Director of Walk Bike Nashville.

“As the city has grown in population, our infrastructure hasn’t kept up,” said Emily Benedict, Chair of the Special Committee on Sidewalks.

“Why are we not doing that if someone is dying because of that. That’s terrible,” said Valerie Butler.

That urgent call for change is reflected in new findings by Metro Nashville’s Special Sidewalk Committee.

“We had no idea how much it costs and what little funding we’ve been given to it,” said Benedict.

Benedict said Public Works builds approximately four miles of new sidewalk each year with current funding.

“Our plan was to have 71 miles put in by 2040,” said Benedict.

At four miles a year, it would take 20 years to complete those priority sidewalks.

“The population, now that we’ve grown so much, we’ve got to make more investments more quickly,” said Benedict.

Another revelation was the cost to build sidewalks – $1,000 per linear foot.

Of that, 74-percent of construction costs is spent on stormwater drainage — that’s three times what peer cities pay.

Here are the committee’s recommendations:

One – Opening up the bidding process to more vendors to create competitive pricing.

“It should drive it down and speed things up,” said Benedict.

Two – Consideration of alternative pedestrian safety methods, like striping and bollards.

Three – Removing the option that allows developers to opt-out of building sidewalks if they pay a fee.

Four – Dedicated funding and personnel specifically for sidewalk creation.

“You’ve got a lot of people working to be in charge of their piece, but we need somebody overseeing all of it and helping to call the shots,” said Benedict.

Benedict said the report will be reviewed in the Public Works Committee on February 18th.

Benedict said she hopes the recommendations will turn into legislation or changes in protocol when it comes to sidewalks.

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