Sidewalk project near schools delayed two years

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The Safe Routes to School project would install sidewalks on the west side of 13th Street between Ann and Castle Streets next to a field used for practice by New Hanover High School athletic teams. Photo by Hannah Leyva.
The Safe Routes to School project would install sidewalks on the west side of 13th Street between Ann and Castle Streets next to a field used for practice by New Hanover High School athletic teams. Photo by Hannah Leyva.

A project that would make sidewalk improvements to the streets near Gregory Elementary and Williston Middle Schools has been extended.

According to the city, the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the city of Wilmington needed extra time to complete the Gregory/Williston Safe Routes to School project in order to evaluate how it aligns with other infrastructure work in the area. Streetscape improvements in the Dawson/Wooster/17th St. area will be made with money from the 2014 transportation bond.

“A lot of it is to just be more efficient and save time and money,” said city spokeswoman Malissa Talbert. “They want to make sure all the infrastructure is right so they don’t have to go back and do it again.”

The project’s original completion date was March 31. An agreement approved by city council last week pushes that date two years, to March 31, 2018. While the extension was approved by a 6 – 1 vote, with Councilman Paul Lawler dissenting, the length of the project concerned some others.

“I think all of council would like to see this project pushed up as much as possible. It’s overdue,” said Councilmember Neil Anderson, who noted that Gregory would possibly be getting 350 to 400 more students next year as the result of the school system moving programs such as Spanish immersion there. “I understand the desire to blend it with other projects and the financial ramifications of that, but lives of those children are big ramifications as well.”

The $390,000 project would install 1,330 linear feet of sidewalk on 13th Street between Castle and Ann Streets as well as make other upgrades and improvements such as ramps and high visibility crosswalks on 10th and 13th Streets at their intersections with Wooster and Dawson Streets.

New Hanover County Schools are in support of the city’s initiative to provide safer routes for students but stated the extension will not greatly affect the new programs at the two schools.

“The completion of the upgrades to the sidewalks, or additional sidewalks, would have minimum impact to the start of the Spanish immersion program at Gregory or Williston,” said Valita Quattlebaum, chief communications officer for the school system. “Those schools already have sidewalks around them and as a result, we already have students who walk or ride bicycles to school there. Our hope is that once the project is complete, more students (and their parents that escort them) might find walking or biking more appealing.”

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