After a decade, riverfront sidewalks a go

By Lisa ZahnerINDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The 1.1-mile stretch of Indian River Drive just from the Sebastian city limit near Capt. Butcher’s north to Roseland Road will get new sidewalks by Thanksgiving, if all goes according to the plan approved by the Board of County Commissioners Tuesday. The sidewalk proposal was first designed roughly a decade ago and presented to the Indian River County Metropolitan Planning Organization in 2001. The agency not only approved the project, but ranked it as a top priority. Why would a top-priority sidewalk project take a decade to come to fruition?”All I can say is the federal government got involved, the (Department of Transportation) Local Agency Program and that’s why,” said Chairman Wesley Davis.The U.S. Department of Transportation has oversight of all projects in the Local Agency Program, according to the program website, “to ensure the Certified Local Agencies comply with all applicable Federal statutes, rules and regulations.”Because the County ran the $495,000 program through DOT to provide for the reimbursement of funds spent, the process took years and spanned the terms of several sets of County Commissioners. Then-Chairwoman Fran Adams held the first public meetings on the project in 2003. In 2006, the County and DOT signed the agreement and Davis held the second public meeting on June 16 at Sebastian City Hall. Davis said there was some opposition from Indian River Drive residents, but that most of the issues were worked through.The sidewalk will be six feet wide and about 85 percent of the span will offer a six-foot grass buffer between the sidewalk and the street. Where necessary because of trees or structures, about 15 percent of the sidewalk will be closer to the street and curbed.Sherry Reichert, who lives along the stretch of Indian River Drive to be improved, said she’s greateful to live along the river and is happy to share it with people who will use the sidewalk, with a few caveats.”I’m here to support the sidewalk, it will make my property value increase, not decrease,” she said. “But I would ask that you be careful to protect the trees and no signage and lights.”No signage, lights are benches were included in the design. The County Purchasing expects to award a contract and break ground on site preparation by August 30, with construction slated to last 90 to 120 days.

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