Much work to be done on sidewalks for Nova 2010 By TaMaryn Waters * DEMOCRAT STAFF WRITER * Published: February 04. 2011 2:00AM Being blind is a way of life for Bruce Weaver, and so is riding the bus. Weaver, 48, who has been blind for 25 years as a result of a hereditary disease, rides a bus five to six times a day since he's the independent-living coordinator for Ability 1st. His job is to teach those with disabilities how to use StarMetro's buses as well as he does. With StarMetro's new Nova 2010 bus system slated to launch this summer, city crews are tackling the tough job of correcting safety issues with sidewalks and building new ones in areas where no sidewalks exist so people like Weaver can have better access to bus stops. "Without sidewalks, my level of independence would be significantly hampered," said Weaver, who also serves on the city's Transit Advisory Committee. Even though he's pleased to see more sidewalks in the works, Weaver is disappointed all of the sidewalks needed for the decentralized bus system will not be done anytime soon. The city has $15 million carved out of its budget for sidewalk improvements related to Nova 2010. But $37 million in improvements is needed, which is roughly 25 miles of sidewalks, said Gabriel Menendez, the city's public works director. As a result, the city has prioritized which sidewalks will get done. Forty-one segments in varied lengths, equal to $8 million of construction costs, are on land where the city has right-of-way. But 30 other segments needed for Nova 2010 are not owned by the city. Menendez said it would cost an estimated $29 million to obtain the needed right-of-way. "We are going to be woefully short on sidewalks," Menendez said. "We are doing everything we can to make the process work." Places slated to get new or improved sidewalks include portions of Maclay Boulevard, Fleischmann Road, Killearn Center Boulevard, Richview Road, Jim Lee Road and Weems Road. The sidewalk projects are expected to create 75 jobs, said Michelle Bono, assistant to the city manager. Construction is expected to start within a couple of months. The city prioritized the sidewalks based on several factors, including whether a pedestrian-related crash has happened in the area and whether it would be used by children to get to school. Menendez said the city plans to work with Leon County and the state on right-of-way issues. Sidewalks in the city seem to be a never-ending saga. There is an estimated $500 million worth of sidewalks need for the entire city, Menendez said. It would take more than two decades to fix. Part of the problem is that sidewalks were usually an afterthought or no thought in the early planning years for the city. "We are trying to make up for a lot of lost time," Menendez said. The new bus system will reduce the number of routes currently used, and it will no longer use the C.K. Steele Plaza as the main transfer point. The bus system currently has 1,052 stops compared to the 766 stops with Nova 2010. Besides sidewalks, other improvements are already in place or headed for some bus stops, including chirpers to help visually-impaired riders, lighting pads and new shelters, said StarMetro director Ron Garrison. Several stops, such as those on Centerville Road , have no sidewalk access. Although here are other improvements associated with Nova 2010, Garrison said sidewalks are important. "It's obviously easier to walk on a sidewalk for everyone," he said.