Laurens, South Carolina – In an attempt to increase the safety of the sidewalks and the walkability of Laurens, Laurens City Council has applied for a $30 million competitive grant from the state’s Department of Transportation. If selected, the city would use the funds to repair and construct 19 miles of sidewalks, furthering its new program, “Connect Laurens,” to enable residents to more easily reach schools and commercial centers.
The grant application was due early this month, and it will be awarded in early May of 2023, said Laurens Mayor Nathan Senn.
“I think we have a good chance of winning this grant. We’ve done a lot of research. There are citizens in this city who do not have a vehicle – whether because of age or economic circumstances – and they must walk to buy groceries and other basic necessities of life,” Senn said. “Unfortunately, many of those residents are forced to walk along the shoulders of highways when making that trip, and that simply isn’t safe. With this funding, we will not only help repair many existing sidewalks across the city, we will build new ones in places where they are needed but have never existed before. This is just another example of our commitment to meet the needs and improve every part of our city.”
The requested grant is under the SCDOT’s “Transportation Alternative Set-Aside Program” – a TAP grant, Senn said. It can not only make a big impact for those without vehicles but also encourage economic growth since a city’s walkability factor has gained importance. The city is also working to make more of its sidewalks ADA approved, under guidelines by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
According to City Administrator Eric Delgado, the purpose of the “Connect Laurens” initiative is to update aging, damaged sidewalks, add missing sidewalks and add or improve ADA accessibility for pedestrian paths, which pre-date 1990.
Increasing the walkability aspect of Laurens will create a secure way to reach services including schools, stores and recreation. If the city is selected for the grant next spring, targeted streets for new or improved sidewalks would include Hillcrest Drive, Fleming Street, Green Street, Fairgrounds Road and Exchange Drive.
Story originally published Page 1 of the Wednesday, Dec. 14 issue off The Laurens County Advertiser.