By Quintin Ellison
Citing pedestrian safety, Sylva leaders agreed a sidewalk along Skyland Drive is worth a lot – even almost double the original estimated price.
Town board members last week agreed to pay a total of $278,000 for seven-tenths of a mile of pavement along Skyland Drive, an extra $175,000 more than they’d expected.
The dollars represent Sylva’s portion of a 20-percent match for a Federal Highway Administration project, with N.C. Department of Transportation handling delivery. In other words, the state is doing the actual work.
Sidewalk construction is planned from the intersection of Skyland Drive with U.S. 23 Business (near McDonald’s) to the byway’s intersection with Chipper Curve Road.
Construction is slated to start early next year.
Even with the price hike, the project “is still a good deal for the town,” Manager Paige Dowling told town leaders.
Board member David Nestler questioned the cost increase, but agreed with Dowling: sidewalk is critically needed along the road.
“I see people walking on (Skyland Drive), and it is not safe, so I think it’s something we have to do,” he said.
Skyland Drive serves as a connector for a number of Sylva neighborhoods and business areas. The two-lane road bisects a portion of town where businesses mix with trailers and homes.
NCDOT plans to rework the intersection of Chipper Curve Road and Skyland Drive.
“The 20 percent match is for the sidewalk project only,” NCDOT spokesperson David Uchiyama said. “There is no local cost match for Chipper Curve. The intersection improvement is separate from the Skyland sidewalk project.”
Uchiyama attributed the sidewalk’s cost increase to additional hydraulic analysis and higher-than-estimated costs for right of way.
The blueprint calls for concrete on both sides of the road from Skyland Drive’s intersection with U.S. 23 Business to the intersection with East Sylva Circle.
From there, sidewalk is destined for the left side of the road only (traveling north) to where Skyland Drive intersects Chipper Curve.
When finished, Skyland Drive’s sidewalk will be 5- to 7-feet wide, with 2.5 additional feet of curb and guttering.
DOT started right-of-way acquisition last summer.
Skyland Drive’s new sidewalk represents the first significantly sized town project of this kind in 13 years, when sidewalks were added between Sylva and Dillsboro.