A batch of sidewalk projects set for construction will fill in gaps on seven major roads, marking progress in Raleigh’s quest to become a more walkable city.
The upgrades are part of an initiative begun by former Mayor Charles Meeker, who urged the city to prioritize sidewalks, greenways and urban-style development. Meeker left office in December at the end of his fifth term.
“Having laid a lot of groundwork over the last two years, we’re now starting to see a lot of the dominoes fall,” said Eric Lamb, the city’s transportation planning manager.
Federal grants will cover 80 percent of costs for the projects, slated for completion this fall.
The immediate goal is making it easier to walk to bus stops and employment hubs, part of what Lamb calls “trying to just get the basics right.”
Setting stage for mass transit
Long-term, the city envisions pedestrian-oriented districts clustered around light-rail stops. Trains would run west to Cary and north to Triangle Town Center, with stops at key landmarks and destinations.
The sidewalk upgrades were not welcomed by all. Some residents of Lake Boone Trail near the Beltline protested that more foot traffic would raise the potential for crime.
City Councilman Bonner Gaylord, who represents the area, voted in favor of moving forward. He called sidewalks an important element of city planning.
Over the past 30 years, development patterns resulted in car-centric growth near the city’s big highway interchanges. But the focus is changing.
Raleigh will implement its first-ever pedestrian plan – a blueprint for improving sidewalks, crosswalks, crossing signals and trails.
Voters in October approved a $40 million transportation bond that includes only $15.1 million to plan, repave or improve city streets.
The other $24.9 million will be spent for better travel by bus, train, bike and shoe leather.
It was the first time Raleigh voters have been asked to approve a mix of transportation bonds for new sidewalks and sidewalk repairs, transit, bike lanes and greenways, along with general street resurfacing work.