The question of where to build sidewalks is polarizing neighborhoods across the city of Tallahassee. In order to address concerns about where the paths will go officials have created rubric to identify which projects should be prioritized.
In 2010 the city made a list of priority sidewalk projects. But since then officials have decided it’s time to reevaluate. City Engineer Steve Shafer told the Tallahassee City Commission Wednesday his department is proposing a plan that would award project funding based on four criteria.
“We’ve identified safe routes to school, assumed 10 points for that, safety projects would receive 10 points, new access for collectors and arterials would receive 10 points and then the latent demand criteria, we put extra weight and came up with 30 points for that for a total possible of 60 points,” Shafer said.
But Tallahassee Commissioner Nancy Miller thinks ensuring students have a safe route to school should be given more weight in the rubric.
“The ranking of 10,10,10 and 30 seems unbalanced to me. I don’t mind giving 20 points to latent demand, but that’s a seems like a tremendous amount of points to be put on a very nebulous criterion,” Miller says.
Miller also says she thinks more emphasis should be given to building sidewalks within neighborhoods, rather than larger so-called “arterial” streets. She says within neighborhoods is where families are walking and children are riding their bikes and need safe places to be. But Commissioner Andrew Gillum says many people rely on the larger street sidewalks to get to work.
“To me the priority between necessary and leisure has to be on what’s necessary. And that doesn’t mean that we can’t support leisure where the resource exists to be able to do it, but to me the premium has to be on folks who have very little choice about their route system and their need for folks who have very little choice about going to work and going to school,” Gillum says.
Gillum advocated for an addition to the rubric that takes into account paths people are already using that where sidewalks aren't.
Commissioners approved a new rubric Wednesday after reassigning some of the weight and adding new factors. Under the new plan safe school routes get 10 points, general safety gets 10 points, neighborhood roads get 10 points, latent demand, or the likelihood that sidewalks would be used if they were built gets 15 points and the existing use of pathways where sidewalks aren’t gets 15 points.
The Commission approved a plan to allocate a million from dollars from the coming fiscal year's budget for sidewalks along Live Oak and Magnolia. Commissioners expect to discuss the issue further during the next meeting and public hearing on the budget.