Sidewalk preferred to asphalt path

Published 5:14 pm Tuesday, July 30, 2019

By Frederic Lee

Staff writer

A sidewalk along South Church Street got the most votes during a recent town hall meeting on the final portion of the Park-to-Park multi-use trail. 

A five-foot sidewalk, as opposed to a 10-foot asphalt path, is also the preferred option by town staff. 

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Votes were counted following a July 22 town hall event that allowed residents to weigh in on one of six bike and pedestrian trail options that would connect the Cypress Creek Bridge to South Church Street. Sixty-five residents voted for the same course along the east side of South Church Street, with 35 preferring the sidewalk and 30 the more expensive asphalt path.  {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Out of 131 total submissions, 33 were not counted because of various disqualifications including the absence of a name and address on ballot, addresses outside of the town’s corporate limits, selection of more than one alternative and other reasons. 

The straight sidewalk option is the route that town staff suggested last month. The next step will be for Town Council to vote whether or not to move forward with it at the Aug. 6 meeting.  

“The citizens who selected Alternative 5 (the sidewalk option) listed connectivity, safety and cost effectivity as the primary reasons for their selections,” according to a report by Smithfield Community Development and Planning Director John Settle, continuing with, “they noted that a five-foot-wide sidewalk was an easier intrusion onto private property to swallow than a ten-foot-wide bike path.”

The Kimley-Horn engineering consulting firm estimates the sidewalk option to cost about $2.5 million and the asphalt option to cost $3.3 million.

 “Citizens who selected Alternative 1 (10-ft. asphalt path along South Church Street) noted that connectivity, the direct nature of the path, and the fact that it would be consistent in construction with the existing paths elsewhere in town were the compelling reasons as to why they made their selections,” according to the report.

Thirteen citizens voted for Alternative 2 — a 10-foot asphalt path that goes from the Cypress Creek Bridge to Jordan Drive via South Church Street, then from Jordan Drive to Lumar Drive, to John Rolfe Drive, to Ransdell Lane and back to South Church Street to connect to Battery Park Road. 

Kimley-Horn estimates Alternative 2 to cost $2.8 million. 

“For Alternative 2, safety and the avoidance of intrusion onto commercial properties were the primary reasons,” according to the report.

Twelve voters picked Alternative 4 — which would be a 10-foot wide asphalt path running from the Cypress Creek Bridge to Durham Street via South Church Street, from Durham Street to cut through the south side of the Church Square neighborhood along a route that includes no existing roadway, connecting to John Rolfe Drive, to Ransdell Lane and the back to South Church Street to connect to Battery Park Road. 

Alternative 4 is estimated to cost $2.4 million according to Kimley-Horn. 

“Alternative 4 was often selected by citizens because it was estimated to be the cheapest alternative, and because they that felt it assured safety for users,” according to the report. 

Several residents of Church Square spoke out against the Alternative 4 route at the Public Works Committee meeting in July, including Virginia Soule and Steven Anderson, since it cuts through their neighborhood. According to several residents, Church Square was advertised as a gated community when they bought into it. 

Seven citizens preferred no bike and pedestrian path at all, and the report states, “few reasons were given as to why Alternative 6 was selected by some of the Town’s citizens. The few that provided an explanation indicated that they felt that a bike trail or sidewalk was a misuse of Town resources, and/or they feared that all of the proposed alternatives would result in the taking of private property.”

One citizen preferred Alternative 3, which is a 10-foot wide asphalt path running along the east side of South Church Street from the Cypress Creek Bridge, crossing over to the west side at near Talbot Drive and continuing until it links to Battery Park Road via a crosswalk at the South Church Street/Battery Park Road intersection. Alternative 3 is estimated to cost $3.5 million according to Kimley-Horn, and Settle’s report states that the individual voting in support of it didn’t give a reason. 

Of the 131 votes, 22 didn’t have an address within town limits, five didn’t have a route selected, four indicated the selection of more than one alternative and two didn’t include a name and address. 

Smithfield resident and trail advocate Cristin Emrick asked during the town’s Public Works Committee meetings if Settle had received emails from residents who were not able to attend the town hall that described their preferred route, and he said that he had and incorporated them into the total.  {/mprestriction}