City leaders approve plan to improve sidewalks

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The Metropolitan Development Commission unanimously approved Indianapolis' first ever long-range plan to improve the walkability of the city.

The Indianapolis/Marion County Pedestrian Plan is a comprehensive report on how to prioritize improvement projects and encourage people to walk more.

Currently, city leaders estimate it would costs $750 million to create walkways on all of the city's major roadways. The current budget for sidewalks improvements this year is $3 million.

“We don’t have a lot to spend on pedestrian infrastructure so we want to make sure we spend it in the places, in the ways that have the most impact," said administrator of planning for the Department of Metropolitan Development, Brad Beaubien.

City leaders first found more than 3,000 places where sidewalks needed improvements in Indianapolis. The Pedestrian Plan cut that number down to 100 based on needs.

One area that ranks high on the list of suggested improvements are the sidewalks on 38th Street and near the State Fairgrounds.

Kim Irwin, Executive Director of Health by Design, helped create the plan and said that area sees a lot of walkers and drivers.

“(Certain parts of town) take on extra importance in terms of figuring out how to keep people who are walking safe, how to treat people who are walking as legitimate users of our transportation system and to do everything possible to protect them and encourage walking," Irwin said.

The pedestrian project also encourages city leaders to create partnerships with private entities to create walking infrastructure like what happened with the Cultural Trail, Irwin said.

“It’s very hard to come up with large chunks of money at a time, but when you have a great plan and you know what you need to do, you can piece together, to match and put funding together as a puzzle," Irwin said.

The plan does not include any new funding for improvement projects. Any money toward improvements would have to come from the Indianapolis City-County Council.

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