by Sam Hieb
Rhino Times editor John Hammer has an update on “what must be Greensboro’s longest running project”—the Downtown Greenway:
The current projection on the Downtown Greenway is that it will be completed in 2020 at a cost of $40 million.
The Downtown Greenway is an extra wide four-mile long sidewalk that, if it is ever finished, will circle the downtown. The project was started in 2001, which means most of the babies who were born that year have finished high school and some have children of their own.
So far, in over 18 years of design, development and construction, the city has managed to finish less than half – 1.5 miles – of the Downtown Greenway, and the two sections don’t meet. So you can’t actually walk for 1.5 miles on the Greenway. By comparison, during just half that time, between 2006 and 2015, the city completed 133 miles of new sidewalks.
Then there is the cost. It is currently estimated that the total cost will be $40 million. That’s about $10 million a mile, or nearly $2,000 a foot.
….If anyone on the current City Council were even marginally interested in how the city spends its money, somebody would at least ask why it is costing roughly the same amount per mile to build the Downtown Greenway as to build a six-lane interstate through an urban area.
Construction on the Downtown Greenway is, according to the Downtown Greenway website, projected to be complete in 2020, but the city has not acquired the right-of-way for the western leg, which runs along the Atlantic and Yadkin railroad tracks. Since the city can’t start construction until it acquires the right-of-way, and since it has only managed to construct 1.5 miles in 18 years, it appears the projection that the entire Downtown Greenway will be completed a mere 16 months from now is not rational.
Meanwhile, Winston-Salem’s Department of Transportation has released its Bicycle Master Plan.
City Bike and Pedestrian Coordinator Matthew Burczyk explains:
“Everything that we’ve talked about doing for the last several years is actually happening now,” says Burczyk. “We’re building trails, bike lanes, sidewalks, intersection improvements, and now there’s funding for all those things to happen. We have a lot of education and enforcement programs through the Watch for Me NC program, and funding to continue that work through the Safe Routes To School and infrastructure grant.”
The DOT has identified 17 priority corridors totaling hundreds of miles of bike route recommendations connecting different parts of the city. Physical improvements will include widening or reorganizing streets for bike travel, shared lane markings on roadways, and protected cycle tracks that carve out space on the road exclusively for bicyclists.
….Local pedestrians will have something to cheer about too. After months of studying intersections, pedestrian crash data, and more, the city’s DOT determined where crosswalk improvements were most needed. The money has now been appropriated for nearly 90 intersection projects in all at a total cost of $2 million.
To be fair, Greensboro has a couple of popular greenways already in place and perhaps the Downtown Greenway will become as popular once it is completed. My problem is its promoters are making it more than it is–probably to justify cost. Instead of an “an extra wide four-mile long sidewalk” on which people exercise, it ostensibly will tell stories and engage users of the trail in a unique and authentic way” and also “will enhance the urban landscape with a green space that will promote fitness, connectedness, and well-being for both our residents and visitors in an aesthetically pleasing environment.” I guess for $40 million, it should do all that, and then some.