'); } -->
To the average walker, the sidewalk along Ridge Road looks to be in decent shape – a few cracks and bumps, but no huge hazards.
But to Lacy Elementary School first-grader Molly Sullivan, the imperfections of the sidewalk pose a big danger. She suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle bones, and makes the three-block trek to school in a wheelchair. If sidewalk issues cause her chair to tip, she’s in for major injuries.
For part of the walk, the concrete drops off steeply to the surrounding ground; the busy street lies just beyond the patch of sunken dirt. That’s a big worry for Molly’s mother, Sarah Sullivan.
Clark Avenue due for sidewalks
Another busy neighborhood street in Raleigh will get its first round of sidewalks.
The city plans to install them on a stretch of Clark Avenue between Woodburn Road and Bellwood Drive. A public meeting to discuss the plan will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Jaycee Community Center, 2405 Wade Ave.
“The other day she was pushing herself home, and we came a centimeter from one of her wheels coming off the edge,” Sullivan said.
That’s not the only hazard the mom has noticed. The ramps at the Lake Boone Trail crosswalk cause Molly’s chair to point toward oncoming traffic. And the sidewalk itself needs to be smoothed. “There are bumps and whatnot along the way,” Sullivan said.
The Sullivans went to the city’s SeeClickFix website to ask for repairs. Within days, strangers picked up the cause on Twitter, and the request got 78 votes on Raleigh’s troubleshooting resource.
Last week, public works representatives met with Sarah Sullivan to look at the problem. They identified four “trip hazards” on the sidewalk that will require repairs. Concrete crews will fix those spots soon, said assistant street superintendent George Nance.
The uneven ground next to the sidewalk is a more complicated issue, because it’s caused by a homeowner’s landscaping. Chris McGee, a public works engineer, said he’s trying to figure out whether it’s the property owner’s responsibility to level the soil.
“It’s not spelled out as clearly as I would like it to be in city code,” McGee said, adding that the city will bring in dirt or stone if it can. “This is a new situation that we’ve not had before.”
As for the ramps at crosswalks, the Sullivans are in luck. Nance says Ridge Road was already set to get new ones this summer as one of the first streets to update to new ADA requirements. The “double” style ramps are wider and line up directly to the crosswalks for safety.
Sidewalk requests rising
The Sullivan family isn’t alone in requesting safer sidewalks. More than 1,000 requests have come in since the city stopped charging property owners for sidewalk repairs last year. McGee said his department currently has a list of 300 to 400 projects.
“There’s a $30 million amount of work out there to be done,” he said. “The work keeps coming in faster than we can turn it out. With the resources we have, we’re doing everything we can.”
McGee is requesting extra staff for the concrete crew in next year’s budget. Another transportation bond would help too, he added. One in 2011 brought $4.75 million for sidewalk projects.
Most fixes are done on a first-come, first-served basis with the SeeClickFix site being the most efficient reporting tool. But the Ridge Road repairs won’t wait in line behind 300 others.
“Any time we have someone who’s in a wheelchair, blind or has some sort of (disability) concern, that immediately goes to the top of the list,” McGee said.
For her part, Sarah Sullivan said she appreciates the quick response so far, but she’s ready to see the repair work start. “I wouldn’t say I’m totally thrilled until it’s done,” she said.