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Cost of sidewalks: patience and $350 a foot

11:42 PM, Jan 3, 2013   |    comments
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In March city officials hope a busy West Knoxville intersection will be safer for hundreds of school children and other pedestrians.

But even as city crews start construction new sections of sidewalk along Gallaher View Road near Bearden High School, officials say there are about 100 requests for new sidewalks on the wait-list.

For $176,000 the city will connect Gallaher View Road to the popular Jean Teague, Cavet Station and Ten Mile Greenways.

The new sidewalk sections will also give kids a safe route to take to and from school.

The project has been in the works since 2007 and officials say sidewalk repair or construction is one of the most frequent reasons people contact the city.

City councilwoman Brenda Palmer estimates 30 to 40 percent of the constituent calls she receives are about sidewalks.

"The biggest calls are about traffic calming. But sidewalks are becoming very important," says Palmer.

So why does it always seem to take so long to get one completed, or get your neighborhood on the list?

Here's the short version: there's a lot of requests, and it's really expensive.

Knoxville Director of Engineering Jim Hagerman says in 2012 the city built more than 2,500 feet of new sidewalk-- that's about the equivalent of eight football fields.

They repaired 9,330 feet of existing sidewalk.

The average sidewalk slab is five-feet long and Hagerman says on average it costs $350 per foot of new sidewalk length.

That's not just really expensive concrete.

Hagerman says the city occasionally needs to purchase land to build on. They also sometimes have to grade the ground, alter the slope, and even build retaining walls.

They budget $500,000 a year to repair old sidewalks and $450,000 to build new ones.

Palmer says she'd like to see that increase.

"Sidewalks, especially as we're all interested in walking and being healthy, are really important to the people in our district," says Palmer. 

She hopes to bring more sidewalks to the District Three in 2013, especially for children trying to walk to school.

Hagerman says the best way to get a sidewalk installed or fixed is to speak up.

The department is "complaint driven" in that respect. When people call to report an issue, the department sends someone out to inspect the site and rank it on a waiting list.

Palmer also recommends contacting your elected official.

Plug in your address here to learn who represents you.

To put in a request, contact:

Civil Engineering Division
1400 Loraine Street

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