FLORENCE — Walking through west Florence will become a much safer and more pleasant experience for pedestrians in the coming months.
The city has launched a sidewalk improvement project that will dig up and rebuild sidewalks along four streets. It is the first phase of an ongoing improvement project.
“The citizens have expressed a lot of interest in getting the sidewalks repaired,” said Melissa Bailey, director of the city Planning Department, which is overseeing the work. “There are some sidewalks that are pretty rough in spots.”
Work is getting under way in four locations: the northern boundary of West Irvine Street, the southern boundary of West Tuscaloosa Street, the western boundary of Locust Street, and the eastern boundary of Cedar Street. All the new sidewalks will meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards, Bailey said.
The sidewalk project is part of a broader west Florence improvement plan that already has increased street lighting and cleared overgrown lots and derelict houses. The biggest item in the plan calls for building a bridge at the western terminus of College Street, which would connect west Florence to Alabama 20 and the city’s sports complex.
City Councilman Dave Smith, whose district includes west Florence, said handicapped accessibility is important to the people of the neighborhood.
“We have a lot of people who ride power scooters, and very often they have to get out in the street,” he said. “We’re lucky we haven’t had a serious accident.”
Bailey said damaged sidewalks will be demolished and replaced with all new walkways. Some disruption to pedestrian as well as street traffic could occur for short periods during demolition, she said, but at least one sidewalk and one street lane will be open at all times in the work areas.
More sidewalks are slated for improvements later. Bailey said engineering plans will be submitted to the City Council for approval soon. The cost of the first phase is $237,253. The money is from the federal Housing and Urban Development Department in the form of a community development block grant.
“The contractors have 120 working days to finish the work,” Bailey said. “They might work on Saturdays occasionally, so we expect all the work to be finished in three to four months.”
Robert Palmer can be reached at 256-740-5720 or robert.palmer@TimesDaily.com.