The town is currently adding sidewalks that will eventually connect the future recreation center to nearby neighborhoods. Town leaders hope it will stimulate foot traffic in its Historic Downtown.
The sidewalk project is divided into two parts.
One sidewalk starts at the intersection of Pearl Street and Main Street, just past Garner Baseball Inc., and goes down to the intersection of Main Street and Benson Road or Highway 50 by the fire station. The other will start from where U.S. 70 and N.C. Highway 50 (Benson Road) intersect and go north to Garner Road, under the train tracks.
The sidewalks will be five feet in width.
“By providing this connection it enables people to walk from Old School Commons all the way to the new recreation center,” Town Engineer Tony Chalk said. “It allows pedestrian movement without going over the tracks.”
The new recreation center will be on Montague Street. Chalk said there will also be pedestrian crossing signals at intersection of Garner Road and N.C. Highway 50.
A $51,000 grant will pay for the crossing signals.
“You need to have an ability for people to move,” he said. “And people like to get out and walk.”
Assistant Town Manger John Hodges agreed. He was initially involved in the discussions for a sidewalks, while he was the downtown manager.
“With the new recreation center coming in the future, it gives folks a chance to walk from many neighborhoods to get to the recreation center,” Hodges said.
The projected started in July and is expected to be finished by the middle of September, Chalk said.
Mari Howe, the downtown development manager, said because downtown is spread out, the sidewalks will connect everything and make downtown more cohesive.
“It makes it so everyone using downtown can access it by foot if they desire,” she said. “And not only does it do that it helps those who live in the downtown area. It’s allowing them to walk safely in their neighborhoods without having to walk in the streets.”
The sidewalks will encroach on the properties of about 10 homes along Benson Road and Main Street.
An excavator lay in Gloria Phillips’ yard as she looked out at it Tuesday evening. Construction workers had paved off part of her yard where the sidewalk will go along the road.
“I’m glad to see it finally happening,” Phillips, a 19-year resident of Garner, said. “So many people walk by here every day.”
In May, the town council adopted a resolution asking the N.C. Department of Transportation to lengthen the N.C. Highway 50 bridge over U.S. 70, as well as “include robust, wide, and visually attractive pedestrian facilities and other enhancements (upgraded lighting and railings) on both sides of the bridge for safe walking.”
The purpose of the sidewalks are to help Garner become a more walkable place, especially in its Historic Downtown. The project makes the connection from the sidewalk that was already in place from the other side of the intersection of Pearl Street and Main Street all the way down to New Rand Road. The connection had never been completed.
The project will cost $639,509 and will be paid for under the town’s Streets and Sidewalks bond, passed in 2013.