A host of community members met at Manny’s Cafe on Lafayette Avenue on Thursday evening to discuss the road and sidewalk conditions of the area and to ask city engineers what, if anything, can be done to make it safer.
Meredeth Gray and Jane Santucci Bryant spearheaded the meeting after Gray, owner of Smudde Family Dentistry, voiced concerns that a lack of sidewalks and poor road conditions would undoubtedly result in tragedy.
She said seeing children waiting roadside for the bus each morning and watching clients walk up the shoulder to reach her practice is concerning. She’d also appreciate if her business wasn’t hit by a passing car for a third time, she said.
“My building has been hit twice by cars, and I don’t know if I could say that a sidewalk there with separation from the curb would stop a car, but it certainly would help,” Gray said.
And while many in attendance pointed to city plans from 2005 and 2014 as a jumping off point for creating a Lafayette Avenue corridor that includes an improved road surface, sidewalks and bicycle lanes, city engineer Chuck Ennis said nothing like that is in the works and likely won’t be for a handful of years.
Preliminary plans for a project between Lost Creek bridge and Fort Harrison would cost roughly $2 million, Ennis said. Neither state nor federal funding for a project that costly, especially considering it covers just more than a half mile of road, would be available until 2023 or 2024, he added.
Besides not having a project officially planned for the area, Ennis said hurdles like business parking areas encroaching on the 60 feet right of way needed for improvements and accommodating some of the wants and wishes voiced by Lafayette Avenue property owners would need to be addressed before anything can happen.
“We’re going to consider their concerns, but we have to temper their wishes with our budget,” Ennis said.
Terre Haute City Council member Neil Garrison asked if anything could be done in the interim, like put new sidewalks from Lost Creek to Fort Harrison and work around them later.
Assistant city engineer Marcus Maurer wasn’t hot on the idea and said it would be near impossible to do the work needing done and leave the sidewalks unscathed.
“In the event this project would happen, I imagine any sidewalks would have to come out,” Maurer said. “The new sidewalks would have be a different grade and it would be difficult to construct around them without destroying what’s there.”
And while he understands the answers at Thursday’s forum may not have satisfied those in attendance, Ennis said he hopes it served as a way for the community to better understand how road projects are planned and how what it wanted isn’t always what’s possible.
“Any time the public can learn about the process as to how we do things, it’s kind of a civics lesson in the things we do, how we do them and why we do them,” Ennis said.
Santucci said she plans to hold similar meetings again in the future.