With Sidewalk Connection on the Horizon in Park Hills, a Covington to Florence Walk Will Be Easier
A nearly half-mile gap between sidewalks that connect Covington to Park Hills will soon be filled.
"This part of sidewalk is the last vital link in a major Kenton County thoroughfare," said Park Hills Mayor Matt Mattone. "I feel like former Ft. Mitchell mayor Bill Goetz passed the baton to me to try and get this done. What's important though is that this is a collaborative effort. A lot of people are behind this effort."
But even though the General Assembly approved funds for the project this year, it won't happen right away.
"It probably won't happen this year," said Rob Hans of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet - District 6, which serves Northern Kentucky. "The two-year biennial plan has a new budget, but any project has to have funds allocated, then you have to have right-of-way acquisition, utilities have to be moved, and ultimately construction can begin."
There are several projects on the list for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and once the money actually is in the budget and not just promised, the projects have to be put in a priority listing, so the Cabinet needs to evaluate the projects and decide which one comes first.
This is not the first time Mattone has tried to get the sidewalk. Back in 2015 the city applied for a Transportation Alternatives (TAP) grant from the state, which would have allowed the project to go forward with 80 percent coming from the grant and 20 percent from the city, but despite support from several local leaders, the city did not get the grant.
"I have walked the area without the sidewalks, and it is not safe," said Mattone. "You have to dodge the cars and it is a four-lane highway with traffic. There was no safe haven to the Ft. Mitchell garage. So we contacted (State Rep.) Diane St. Onge and (State Rep.) Arnold Simpson to see if we couldn't appeal to the Federal Safety fund."
The appeal worked enough for the money to be set aside by the General Assembly. The move represents one step forward for the City of Park Hills and the sidewalk, and for the continuity of pedestrian traffic on Dixie Highway.
Back in 2006 the "Fix the Dixie" movement had two main concepts: first, to have a prioritized list of 168 short and long term recommendations; and second, to have implementation standards such as future right-of-way widths, transit stop improvements, expanded bicycle and pedestrian accommodations, and increased streetscape design measures. Even though it is ten years later, the sidewalk will help to fulfill the goals of the Fix the Dixie movement.
The fix should make it possible to walk from Covington all the way to Florence on a continuous sidewalk, a 9-mile and three-hour trek one way, according to Google.
"We support this project, as do the residents of Park Hills, which is evident by the amount of community input we received regarding this and similar projects," said Lisa Cooper, Executive Director of the Northern Kentucky Area Development District in one letter of support for the project, written when Park Hills sought grant funding. "We believe this project will have a positive impact not only on Park Hills, but on the surrounding cities and Kenton County."
Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor