Despite projections of 70 miles of new sidewalks in 2009’s MAPS 3 campaign, the program’s Trails and Sidewalks Subcommittee was informed that the $9.1 million set aside for the projects would pay for only about 26 miles.
Those 26 miles represent around 31 sidewalk alignments, selected using criteria such as proximity to schools, existing sidewalks and new sidewalks already planned under a 2007 bond program. MAPS 3 and city officials have expressed confidence, however, that they will be able to complete more than 26 miles.
They noted said the discrepancy between the amount promised and the amount now projected to be built arose mostly because the cost was calculated using 4-foot sidewalks rather than the required 5-foot-wide sidewalks.
The initial projections also failed to take into account the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the presence of utilities, driveways and other obstructions in the selected areas.
Several council members expressed dismay that the number of miles of new sidewalks was so far off-base.
“What if we had missed the (MAPS 3) convention center price by two-thirds, and we only have a third of the money to build a third of the convention center promised?” Ward 4 Councilman Pete White said. “This thing would be full of the Chamber folks. They would be down here beating us to death over that. But we
seem to be able to brush aside the fact that we went from 70 miles to 26
White also said he felt that some of the projects had not been thoroughly vetted during the MAPS 3 campaign, and the sidewalk shortfall is proof.
“Somebody should have known you couldn’t build 70 miles of sidewalks for what we allocated,” White said.
Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid said the reduced miles could have an effect on the public trust.
“My fear is that unless we take a step back, we could be presiding over the last MAPS,” Shadid said. “Clearly the vetting process was inadequate.”
Ward 7 Councilman Ronald “Skip” Kelly said he was concerned that few of the plan’s 31 projects were in his ward, despite a dire need for sidewalks.
City Manager Jim Couch said the council has some options if it wishes to fund further sidewalks, including a $17 million MAPS 3 contingency fund and $30 million that was to go toward moving an OGE substation downtown, but since has been placed in contingency by the council.
“I understand the frustration out there, but we do have some options,” Couch said.
Ward 1 Councilman Gary Marrs presented a motion to send the plan back to the Trails and Sidewalks Subcommittee to work on, giving the subcommittee an unlimited amount of time to come to a decision on the issue. The measure was passed unanimously.