CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Sidewalks are an essential part of government services and a major aspect of Charlotte’s plans to keep pedestrians safe.
But a WBTV Investigation finds that proposed sidewalks stay on the waiting list for decades and that the rankings for those projects are updated so infrequently they often don’t reflect the changing landscape of communities.
Residents near Kuykendall Road in South Charlotte recently learned about some of the deficiencies with the Charlotte Department of Transportation’s selection process when they started advocating for a sidewalk on the increasingly busy street.
Some of them have been waiting for a very long time.
“I just thought it would happen and here it is almost 20 years later,” Sara Jo Burns said.
Kuykendall is a convenient cut-through between Providence Road and McKee Road. It has only gotten busier as development in the area has continued at a breakneck pace.
That has many residents worried about the safety of their children.
“I don’t want to worry that they’re going to die because there is no sidewalk for them to ride their bikes on for a quarter-mile,” Shannon Coffee said.
“We have two young two young daughters, ages seven and ten, and we get out and walk a lot,” Robert Kerr said.
Kerr is in the group of residents that recently took their complaints to the city.
CDOT came back with a new ranking for the sidewalk, potentially having a huge impact on when sidewalks will finally arrive for some sections of Kuykendall Road.
Previously, the city ranked two portions of Kuykendall Road, one from Providence to Hampton Oaks Lane and the other from Hampton Oaks to McKee.
Out of 242 unfunded sidewalk thoroughfare projects, the two projects previously ranked 69th and 177th, respectively. After CDOT took a new look at the project, the rankings improved dramatically with the section near Providence Road ranking 5th. The city divided other sections of the road into two projects which now rank 45th and 50th.
The city ranks the need for sidewalks based on a scorecard that includes proximity to schools, safety needs and other factors.
“I actually had some really good conversations with the DOT, where I updated them and informed them that they might not have the conditions right,” Kerr said.
WBTV filed a records request to find out how the ranking system works and what changed along Kuykendall to warrant the new ranking.
The city declined to provide anyone for an on-camera interview.
A spokesperson for CDOT emailed responses to WBTV’s questions on how often the city reviews its sidewalk rankings.
“Staff does rescore segments impacted by change as they learn of it, and sometimes that is through public inquiry,” the spokesperson wrote.
There does not appear to be any standard timeframe to re-evaluate project scores unless it is selected for funding.
“Scores are adjusted based on land development records, capital project records, and everything available to us throughout GIS. While it is not perfect, it is close,” the spokesperson wrote.
The spokesperson said the rankings for Kuykendall changed because points were added near McKee due to a safety related need and near Providence because of the addition of an elderly care facility.
WBTV researched building records for the facility referenced and found the certificate of occupancy was issued in September 2017, meaning that more than three years passed before it was reflected in the scoring, and that was only because residents reached out to CDOT.
Even with the higher new ranking for a sidewalk on Kuykendall near Providence, once a sidewalk project receives funding, it could take three to six years according to the city.
Every single one of the 242 unfunded projects have been on the list for more than 15 years. The city did not provide an average amount of time a project remains on the unfunded list.
“Saying to a mother that, well maybe we’ll get sidewalks you know in five years, I just don’t want to be that in that situation where what if somebody is severely injured or dies?” Coffee said.