By Kyle Keck
July 25, 2013
When Daniel June walks along Olympia Avenue, he dreads a particular section. Right around the Delaware Street intersection, the sidewalk disappears into a patch of tall grass, and he’s suddenly walking dangerously close to traffic.
To make matters worse, that stretch of road wraps around a sharp curve, blocking his view of oncoming vehicles. The problem is a particular concern for people with children, June said.
“We need a sidewalk for everybody to be safe,” said June, who has five children.
|Listen to Daniel June talk about his concerns about safety.|
Much of Olympia Avenue, one of the area’s busiest streets, is without sidewalks, but along most of it the grassy shoulders are wide enough that people can walk a safe distance from the traffic. But at Delaware Street people are forced dangerously close to the road.
Another Olympia resident, Kristina Savinkova, said she avoids that stretch of road altogether because of the danger. But Richland County Councilman Kelvin Washington said plans for a sidewalk are in the works.
Although Olympia is in the middle of Columbia, it is not part of the city but instead remains governed by the county.
The stretch raising concerns is about 300 feet of overgrown grass that runs along Olympia Avenue.
Jim Jaco, president of the “We Are Olympia” neighborhood organization for over 30 years, said the county has started to make improvements to the community, such as some new streetlights. But Jaco said he and other community members have been asking for the sidewalk for several years.
They had an open line of communication with County Council, but lately their wishes have “fallen on deaf ears,” he said.
However, Washington, whose district includes Olympia and much of Lower Richland, said this spring he had heard from community members about the need for a sidewalk and planned to take action.
With the University of South Carolina nearby and an influx of students living in Olympia, it is important to improve and lengthen the sidewalks and create bicycle trails, Washington said. And during football season, Olympia Avenue is jammed with people walking to and from Williams-Brice Stadium about a mile away.
The councilman said he hopes the sidewalks will be in soon as part of a “neighborhood improvement plan” the county is working on.
For some residents, it has been a long time coming.
“It’s no good, not for the kids anyway,” said Chris Carroway, who lives in Olympia and said he frequently walks down Olympia Avenue. “They can’t even see what is coming around the corner. I’ve seen cars hop over the curb and run into the houses across the street. Why not put a sidewalk? It sounds like a plan for me.”
A penny-per-dollar sales tax approved by Richland County voters for transportation projects took effect May 1. The County Council has estimated it will raise over $1 billion during the next 22 years. Washington said some of that money would pay for the Olympia sidewalk.
There were no cost estimates for the Olympia project. However, a cost estimator at homewyse.com says the materials and labor for 900 square feet of sidewalk – 300 feet by 3 feet wide –would be about $3,000. That does not include the cost of excavation, grading or other site preparations, which can run far higher. And that would be only a small stretch of the street needing sidewalks.
All big cities, especially college cities like Columbia, have a lot of pedestrian traffic, making it important that there are adequate sidewalks and that pedestrians are educated about traffic safety, said Richland County sheriff’s Sgt. Michael Pearson, a traffic safety officer.
“It’s very important because we do have pedestrian injuries and pedestrian fatalities in Richland County every year,” Pearson said. “A lot of the stuff we tell them is basic stuff, but unfortunately they don’t remember it.”