Mooresville is planning to build sidewalks along several streets within walking distance of downtown.
The project will encompass a total of about 7,500 feet of sidewalk along eight largely residential streets, nearly all of which are without sidewalks, as well as wheelchair ramps at intersections. The streets include Patterson and West Moore avenues, as well as smaller ones such as Bell and Biltmore streets.
Meant to increase foot traffic in a part of town where walking could prove a bit dicey, it will affect “a lot of citizens,” said Jon Young, an engineer for the town who is overseeing the project.
Mooresville has increasingly sought to make itself more walkable, building an average of 2,000 feet to 3,000 feet of sidewalk each year and requiring that developers build them as part of their plans, Young said. To pay for those sidewalks, the town has used Powell Bill funds, which the state sets aside for street improvements in cities and towns.
But the downtown sidewalk project is the biggest one to move forward since town voters last spring approved a referendum to issue $20 million in general obligation bonds for transportation projects, including street improvements. Since then, only one major capital improvement project has taken place, the construction of a two-lane road connecting Cornelius and Mazeppa roads. To mark its completion, the town had scheduled a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Oct. 30.
At a mid-October meeting, commissioners awarded a $2.4 million contract to the Statesville construction company that will carry out the project, Bell Construction Co. Inc. The town will pay for it partly with the bond money, Young said.
Scheduled to start in January, it is expected take about 10 months to complete.
In addition to building sidewalks, the project involves removing streetside drainage ditches and installing curbs and gutters, as well as stormwater drains. To pay for that construction work, the town will tap its stormwater utility fund.
In addition to the downtown project, town has scheduled two other major sidewalk projects that it will pay for at least partly with the bond money. One is around Mooresville Middle School, south of downtown, and is expected to cost about $1.1 million, finishing in the summer of 2016; the other, in the Mill Village historic neighborhood, just southwest of downtown is expected to finish in 2018, taking place in phases.
The scope and cost of the downtown project has grown considerably since it was initially planned as part of the bond referendum, appearing on a list of capital improvements the town plans to complete within five years. Updated every year, the list is based partly on public comment and is required by the state. The town plans to finance many projects on it with the bond money.
At the time, the town planned to build sidewalks along only Patterson Avenue, which would have amounted to only half the cost of the $2.4 million project.
Young noted that the eight streets are in one of the last remaining parts of town that still rely on drainage ditches. Only one of them, Gantt Street, has a stretch of sidewalk.
Asked whether the absence of sidewalks in the area poses a safety hazard, Young said, “Absolutely.” He added that besides walking on the streets themselves, “there’s nowhere else to go.”
Jake Flannick is a freelance writer: email@example.com