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Glad some sidewalks coming, want to see more

A few recent incidents have our minds on sidewalks and walkability in our city and county. 

Over the last few weeks, our reporter has seen a man bicycling along Highway 53 West. He’s in work clothes from a fast-food chain, wobbling along the low, grassy shoulder. When she sees him it’s around the same time of day and he’s always in his uniform, so it’s probably safe to assume he’s on his way home from work. 

And recently a pedestrian died on North Main Street (Talking Rock Highway) just south of the Old Philadelphia Road intersection when he was struck by a car in the afternoon. This was very close to the spot where, a few years ago, a young man was hit and killed walking home from Walmart where he worked.  

We’d like first to give the city a thumbs up for securing a $1.6 million Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) grant for sidewalks that will help connect downtown Jasper to Lee Newton Park. That project will bring sidewalks from North Main Street at Chambers Street to Burton Street, where the Jasper Fire Department is located. 

Some people don’t have a vehicle. Like the fast-food employee who makes the dangerous decision to ride a bicycle to work on a busy highway and those who get around by foot, other options besides a car to safely get somewhere are few and far between. There is no regular public transportation or Uber here. 

And let’s not overlook the walkers who want to get some exercise. Depending on where you live,  a walk to town or to go on a walk for the sake of walking may be hazardous without a sidewalk.

In an article in the American Planning Association, nine experts said, “Accessible sidewalks are the best infrastructure investment communities can make.” 

For years the city has had sidewalks on the radar, with efforts being started and stopped. In 2021 the Progress reported city leaders were hopeful they could renew different sidewalk improvements that were delayed due to a looming GDOT project, which will bring big changes to Church Street from Highway 515 to downtown. There would be no use updating sidewalks in these critical areas if they will have to be torn out for the state route widening project. That GDOT project still looms with it slated (fingers crossed) to go to bids next year, so sidewalks in those areas are on the backburner a little longer. 

We’re not saying it’s feasible to add sidewalks along every road here. There is only so much money and a lot of thought must go into where the sidewalks are needed and will be used. But we fully believe sidewalks are a critical need in this community and want to see more. 

We appreciate recent efforts by the city of Jasper, and we hope a focus on adding and improving more sidewalks continues.

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