BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Most people would shudder at the thought of walking alongside a busy road to run errands, however when you don’t have a choice, you grit your teeth and bear it.
“I have to travel this road to get where I’m going,” said Dale Bell, who lives on Gardere Lane. “Oh, it’s scary, especially when it gets dark.”
Bell recalls walking from her home on Gardere to the store when a car seemed to get closer to her rather than avoid her.
The deep drainage ditches make it difficult for people like Bell to travel roughly a mile.
“We cannot get where we’re trying to go, then they blame us for being in the street,” she said. “I’m handicap and use a walker. I have to get in the street to get where I’m going or get killed.”
Bell says she’s been living in the area for 14 years. This entire time, she says she’s been pleading with city leaders for a sidewalk. On top of walking alongside the busy traffic, she has to cross it just to get to the doctor.
“I was walking and I almost fell in the road. If I tilt either way, I would have went in that water,” Bell said.
Wednesday’s announcement by Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome’s office to make Gardere Lane pedestrian friendly couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. The project, Broome says, was a collaborative effort between the city, the Gardere Initiative, and the South Burbank Crime Prevention and Development District.
The project will be completed in four phases. Phase one is expected to be done by June.
“Approximately 6,000 feet of 5-foot-wide sidewalks along the east side of Gardere Lane from Nicholson Drive to Burbank Drive,” the mayor explained during a press conference.
The city says 20 percent of the construction costs for The Gardere Lane Pedestrian Improvement Project is funded in part by the half a percent sales and use tax for local street and roadway improvements. Eighty percent of the project is funded through a Transportation Alternative Program grant.
“It’s just nowhere to walk. The businesses are on the opposite side of Gardere, so it’s just problematic for them to cross and access those businesses,” explained Dr. Murelle Harrison, executive director of the Gardere Initiative.
Some of the ditches will be filled in and in areas that have enough property, the path will go up next to the ditch, city leaders say.
Dr. Harrison works closely with families in the area. A simple sidewalk, she says, is a huge step.
“They have been marginalized and neglected for years,” she said. “We’re bringing resources to community and it’s making a difference.”
With news like this, people like Bell will have an easier walk from her home to the store.
“I’d be nice if we had a sidewalk because I was trying to get a scooter chair. I asked them if I get it, where I’m going to ride it at? If I had a sidewalk I could ride on the sidewalk and not in the road,” Bell said.
It’s unclear when phases two through four will be completed.
A multi-use path will be built from Burbank to the BREC Hartley/Vey Park, completing phase two. During phase three, the walking path will continue from the park to Nicholson. Phase four will feature a walking path from Nicholson to River Road. The path will eventually make its way up the levee, connecting to downtown.