04/11/07 — Is there an end in sight for traffic delays on Berkeley?

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Is there an end in sight for traffic delays on Berkeley?

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on April 11, 2007 1:46 PM

Traffic woes along Berkeley Boulevard are expected to end in the near future, officials said Tuesday.

General Services Director Joe Sawyer said he expects his crew to finish its sidewalk installation project sometime around the first week of May. The project, funded by the Department of Transportation, began last month.

Sawyer said his intention is to lay sidewalk as far down Berkeley as the $50,000 his department received from DOT allows.

"We're hoping to get as far down as the Sears," he said. "I don't know if we'll make it there or not, but we are going to go as far as our funds let us."

Assuming the city gets to that point, Sawyer said a retaining wall will need to be constructed to keep dirt from running off into the roadway -- an aspect of the project that will likely exhaust the roughly $25,000 remaining in the fund.

It is not unusual for DOT to allocate funds to a city for a sidewalk project, Sawyer said. In fact, the relatively new sidewalks along Ash Street were funded in the same way.

But just because money has been given before -- and for this project -- there is no guarantee that additional funding for similar projects will be given.

That, Sawyer added, is one reason his crews are still moving south down Berkeley.

"You won't know whether you will get more money until the next budget comes out," he said.

But just because there is no guarantee that money will come in next year to fund the final stretch of Berkeley, city officials are not complaining. It's a good start, they said.

And as far as Sawyer has heard, residents don't seem to mind, either.

"I haven't received any comments positive or negative," he said. "So right now, it's neutral."

Last month, Goldsboro resident Marion Fussell said she was happy to see the project take off. She has been walking from her home near Herman Park to the mall nearly every day to avoid spending most of her budget on spiking gasoline costs.

"It's about time we got some sidewalks on this side of town," she 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."

While Sawyer's hope and expectation is that the work will be completed sometime within the next few weeks, rain or another return to freezing temperatures could prolong completion of the effort.

"I don't see anything else that would delay us," Sawyer said.

Until then, residents can expect traffic woes similar to the ones they are experiencing now.

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 "interconnectivity" through town.