02/08/07 — City tries to stretch dollars for current sidewalk project

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City tries to stretch dollars for current sidewalk project

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on February 8, 2007 1:52 PM

Marion Fussell doesn't drive her car much these days.

Between expensive repairs and the increased cost of gasoline, walking to places that are relatively close to her home is a better way to get by month to month.

From her home on Ash Street, the 37-year-old mother of two hikes "close to 15 miles" each week -- to and from Berkeley Mall, the grocery store and bank.

Luckily for her, crews are currently installing sidewalks along a stretch of her daily route -- down Berkeley Boulevard at least as far as the mall.

Walking has been helping keep the heat on and food on the table lately, Ms. Fussell said, but it has been anything but easy.

"Everybody has their own way to get by with the prices these days," she said. "So I gave up driving -- well, except to work and on long trips."

While her daughters are at school, Ms. Fussell battles hills, noise and traffic to finish her daily errands before coming home, cooking dinner and driving to the late-shift.

The routes she takes most days take her through parking lots and across roadways.

But when she saw crews pouring sidewalks along Berkeley Boulevard, she said she stopped and took in a deep breath.

"It's about time we got some sidewalks on this side of town," Ms. Fussell said. "We got the ones on Ash, but they don't really lead this way. It's just not safe without sidewalks and some of us can't afford to be driving everywhere."

Goldsboro General Services Director Joe Sawyer said one of his crews is the labor behind the Department of Transportation-funded project along Berkeley.

Using city workers to get the job done will allow the $50,000 given to the city for the project to go further -- maybe as far as beyond Berkeley Mall.

"We thought, 'If the city did it, we could probably get more sidewalks out of it,'" Sawyer said. "We're going to go as far as that money allows."

Sawyer said it is not unusual for DOT to allocate funds to a city for a project like this. In fact, the sidewalks along Ash Street were funded in much the same way.

Still, that does guarantee more money -- or projects -- will come anytime soon.

"I don't know if there are going to be other projects right now," Sawyer said. "We won't ever know for sure until the money comes."

So for now, he is keeping his crew focused on Berkeley, a stretch he said still needs handicapped ramps at each corner.

Once the temperatures rise above freezing, the crew will resume work and continue pouring sidewalks until the funds run out. Until then, residents can expect to see signs and city trucks along the stretch of road.

Ms. Fussell can't wait.

"It will be nice," she said. "For the people who really need them, it's worth it. I've been telling my neighbors, 'Just walk. Maybe if we stop driving so much, those gas prices will come down. The sidewalks will make my walks easier just like the ones on Ash Street did.'"

Sawyer said he wasn't sure how many people might benefit from a sidewalk presence throughout the city, or whether the funds came through due to some City Council members' push for more "inter-connectivity," through town.

"That may be," he said. "But I wouldn't know anything about that."

But he does know one thing for sure.

"I haven't heard anyone complain about it," Sawyer said.