Saturday, May 14, 2005

Paying Too Much for Sidewalks?

Greensboro has been trying pretty hard to improve its pedestrian connectivity by building more sidewalks in areas that lack them; $5.3 million was allocated for sidewalks and bikeways in a 2000 transportation bond. Everyone who reads my blog knows that I love sidewalks.

But I found out this morning that the city might be paying much more than it needs to in order to accomplish its goals. Apparently, it is paying people for the right to put sidewalks on right-of-ways it already owns.

A rather shocking figure was quoted to me: along Wendover Avenue alone, the city may be paying commercial property owners up to $1 million to put in sidewalks on the city right-of-way -- this is in addition to the actual cost of building the sidewalks.

If this is true, it would amount to a huge giveaway of city funds to the companies that line that prosperous commercial corridor.

7 comments:

downtown diane said...

Hey David,
As a lover of sidewalks myself, I want to know more about this cost of sidewalks issue. Where did you find this information?
Sidewalks, a park, tree-lined streets and a front porch big enough for a couple of rocking chairs and a swing were the deciding factors when my family decided to purchase our house in Westerwood over thirty years ago. I wish every street in Greensboro had sidewalks.
Many citizens are concerned about the lack of safe walking areas near shopping centers and residential areas. I am glad that city leaders are finally addressing this problem.
I am especially concerned about the "Battleground Raceway". There should be safe sidewalks and bus stops along this congested corridor. I have questioned the wisdom of the decision to build a so-called greenway behind commercial property and private yards before safe pedestrian areas are provided along regular roadways.
Thank you for keeping up with this stuff. I love your blog.
diane

David Wharton said...

Diane, you're so right about sidewalks around shopping centers -- even the people who live nearby can't walk to them!

I'll try to find out more from my source on sidewalks. I don't want to put his name here without his permission, but in my view he's a very reliable guy.

Adam, a UNCG grad student said...

Dr. Wharton,

I read in the News and Record, a year or so ago, that Greensboro has one of the highest rates of pedestrian injury and death in the U.S.

Don't know how true it is- I shall look into it.

Anonymous said...

Yup, the Triad is deadly. Click here:
http://www.transact.org/library/reports_html/ms2004/pdf/Final_Mean_Streets_2004_4.pdf

See page 18. I also remember hearing though I don't know where, that Greensboro is the worst of the three Triad cities.

Sandy Carmany said...

David,

That ROW figure sounds WAY out of line! I checked with GDOT director Jim Westmoreland on this, and he told me as of today, only $80,000 has been spent to ACQUIRE new ROW for this project so far and he is not anticipating that figure to climb too much higher. Plus he said it would be highly unusual for the city to pay for right-of-way it already owns. I do know that additional ROW must be purchased at some of the intersections because there are going to be some additional right-turn-only lanes added at some of them along with the sidewalk construction.

Anyway, Jim is checking with the city's property acquisition people to double-check all this, and I will be back in touch as soon as I have the accurate figures and informaion.

David Wharton said...

Thank you for checking Sandy; my source is also checking for further clarification.

Like you, I'd like to see that bond money spent well.

Sandy Carmany said...

David,

I just received this email from GDOT director that is good news/bad news. Good news is that the city is NOT paying for its own ROW for this project. Bad news is that costs for purchase of ROW owned by businesses is closer to the figure your source gave you. So that source was half right, half wrong. Here's the email and I will be happy to email you the Excel spreadsheet if you want it.

Here's the email:

Attached is a spreadsheet from Butch’s property management staff on the current estimated right-of-way costs for the Wendover (and Bridford Parkway) intersection and sidewalk improvement project. As you will notice, the total estimated right-of-way purchase cost for the entire project is +/- $725,000, with about one half of the total right-of-way cost for the project consisting of Wendover Avenue property and one half consisting of Bridford Parkway property (so it’s not all just Wendover Avenue cost and some of the cost is associated with the intersection improvements). In addition, I have also been informed that we are not repurchasing (or paying people for) any of our own (existing) right-of-way for the project and that we (Butch correct me if I’m wrong), are generally paying prices for the right-of way that are either at or very near to what we expected to pay for this type property in this location.

Finally, I know this number is much, much different than the $80,000 estimate I reported to you last week and as communicated the City’s most recent project management report. In checking with Butch’s staff that track the information and assemble the report, they report that the difference is created by a time and entry lag between what’s actually been purchased and reported in the project management report (i.e., $80,000) versus, what’s actually planned to be purchased and/or being negotiated (i.e, the other $645,000). We’ll continue to tweak and improve the report as time goes on to provide a more complete and accurate picture on this item in the future. And, I sincerely apologize for any confusion that I may have created by sharing incomplete information with you last week on this item.

I hope this helps. Please let me or Butch know if you have questions or other need other information.