Letter to editor - Harris

By John Peters

August 18, 2013

To the Editor,

Despite a general reluctance to do so I feel I must comment on the article which reports on the recently presented pedestrian plan for the city of Mount Airy so that the citizens are fully aware of the driving forces and details behind the report.

First let me mention that the city already had a sidewalk master plan. However, it was not done by an “approved” consulting firm and therefore made us ineligible for grant funding for those projects which everyone involved in the process knew were coming as a result of the study: namely some apparatus, built at considerable cost, which would allow pedestrians to cross U.S. 52 in order to access the 601 area.

This is only the tip of the iceberg as far as the motive behind the sidewalk master plan is concerned, however. The real reason behind a desire to allow citizens to cross 52 at 601 and for that matter the extension of the greenway to complete a loop around the southern end of the city is to make it possible and indeed encourage citizen access to the PART bus parking lot on South 52.

The motivation has little to do with sidewalk development east of U.S. 52 and this is born out by a close examination of some of the statements in the article. First, as stated: “80 percent of the participants said fitness or recreation is their main purpose for walking.” I ask what individual is going to walk across 52 into an area (601) that common sense says cannot be made pedestrian friendly regardless of the amount of money spent attempting to do so for the purpose of fitness or recreation?

The answer is not a soul. And I submit that nobody residing west of U.S. 52 is going to cross a four-lane divided highway heading east for the purpose of recreation. There are a myriad of attractive areas to walk in Mount Airy right now and to further make the statement as the study says that it is “not the easiest place to walk” is preposterous. Any evening or weekend one can see any number of people walking in our town. Mount Airy is one of the most pedestrian friendly small towns I have ever seen.

A close examination of the previous sidewalk master plan shows only a very few areas that still need connecting east of U.S. 52 — upper North Main, Grace Street and Hamburg Street to Mount Airy Middle School to name a few. Of course none of these areas are anywhere near the PART Bus park and ride location which as previously mentioned is the real driving force behind this matter.

It should be noted at this point that PART is the money conduit for this area for many of the current administration’s long term public works projects. I hope the citizens will take a closer look at this whole process and while sensible arguments can be made from a recreation standpoint to extend the loop on the greenway no such argument can be made for the funds our town will have to come up with in a match to take on the insurmountable task of making crossing US 52 and walking west on 601 a pedestrian friendly experience.

Todd Harris

Mount Airy