City leaders want to make it easier to walk and bike in Durham.
The city is advertising for a new position that will guide future pedestrian and bicycle plans and projects. The person will lead the development process and work with consultants and the community to implement a pending sidewalk and bike path study. The position will fall under the Transportation Department. The annual salary range is $46,335 to $74,137.
The creation of the position follows the City Council ranking sidewalk construction as its highest priority in the city’s long-term construction planning process.
The council has earmarked more than $15 million for the construction of new sidewalks across the Bull City over the next five to seven years, said Wesley Parham, assistant director of the city’s Transportation Department.
City officials are progressing with the bid process for a consultant to oversee the updated study that will evaluate and add to the list of proposed projects, Parham said. He expects the study to start in March and be completed a year later.
The study will then help determine which sidewalk projects will be funded through the program, and the person in the new position will help do the planning and implementation.
A number of factors will be used to determine which projects get the highest priority, Parham said.
A key component of the process will be determining the highest-benefit sidewalk projects that can be delivered the quickest and at the lowest cost.
“So we can get as much bang for the buck, so to speak, as possible,” Parham said.
Some sidewalk projects can be very expensive because they require the acquisition of right-of-way, new curbs and gutters, drainage and face obstructions, such as trees and bridges.
The study will also identify projects that will require additional state or federal funding. Those projects generally take the most time.
As the city sets priorities for sidewalks, it will also evaluate bicycle projects.
That includes looking at how sidewalk and roadway improvements could affect cyclists.
“For instance, you don’t want to build a sidewalk near the edge of an existing roadway if you also plan to provide bicycle facilities,” he said. “You need to think about the two in tandem.”
A lot has changed since the current pedestrian and bicycle plans were adopted as more people have moved into the area and are riding the bus and their bikes, said Kendra Bridges, chair of the Durham Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission.
The commission has been pushing for the city to move forward with a process that considers all the needs of the community, from people who use wheelchairs to bikers, at the same time.
“So, we are very excited for that process to be moving forward,” Bridges said.
Having a good plan in place will direct current resources as well as help obtain additional grant funds, she said.
“What’s also really important is that the needs of every community are reflected in that plan,” Bridges said.
Nationwide infrastructure in communities of color and low-income communities isn’t as good as the average.
“So paying special attention to underserved areas when that plan moves forward is really important as well,” she said.