Improving sidewalk safety in Port St. Lucie: After teen's death, push for more sidewalks

It has been two months since 16-year-old Hunter Henry of Port St. Lucie was struck and killed while riding his bike to school.

 

The tragedy has renewed the call to make the city more pedestrian and bike friendly by building more sidewalks.

 

But more sidewalks take time, and a lot of money.

 

At Theresa Shamroth's home in Port St. Lucie, there's always good conversation. Monday, topics ranged from neighborhood gossip to real estate prices.

 

Shamroth and friends bike and walk every other day out of their neighborhood and down Village Green Drive, a busy road with no sidewalks.

 

"That stretch is hard for us when we have to walk on the grass with the oncoming traffic.," said Shamroth.

 

But that will soon change.  Construction is set to begin later this month on a stretch of Village Green just north of Walton Road. It's one of two new places getting sidewalks.  The other is off Chartwell Street.

 

Back in 2006, the city put together a committee to prioritize where the next sidewalks are built.

 

"The places that have the biggest demand, the most accidents, the most people out walking.  That's how that list was broken down," said city spokesman Ed Cunningham.

 

When it comes to putting down new sidewalks, the city often looks within two miles of schools. But the next two sidewalk projects are near senior communities.

 

"They're out walking too.  They're going to the grocery store and running errands and doing the things they need to do and they're also at risk," said Cunningham.

 

The city budgets 250-thousand dollars annually for sidewalks and then looks for grants to try to fund as many projects as possible.

 

While new developments require sidewalks, fewer than 20-percent of the city streets have them.  With dozens of worthy projects waiting for funding, there are still many miles to go.  The cost of building a sidewalk runs from 80-200 dollars a foot depending on its width. 

 

To put sidewalks along every city street would cost more than a billion dollars.

 
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