The Town of Bethlehem has an extensive network of sidewalks measuring approximately 43.4 miles long. Bethlehem’s sidewalks provide access to goods and services, promote physical activity and health, increase neighborhood vitality and social interaction, calm traffic, and bolster economic development. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title II - 28 CFR Part 35) requires that State and Local Governments must ensure that individuals with disabilities are not excluded from programs, services and activities. Sidewalks are included under the ADA for facilities which must be accessible.
Historically, the Town has added new concrete and asphalt sidewalks through a combination of federal, State and Town funds or through sidewalk created in new residential or commercial developments. The existing sidewalk network was built over many years, with sidewalk materials and widths varying by location. Portions of some older sidewalks have been upgraded to new standards and some new sidewalks have been added to the network. Sidewalk maintenance and expansion are ongoing efforts by various Town Departments, as well as the Town Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee.
Consistent with the goals of the Town Comprehensive Plan, the Town strives to maintain a safe sidewalk network as well as expand the sidewalk network to connect residents to local destinations. With limited resources, the Town must be strategic in how we invest in sidewalk projects. Sidewalks generally provide a broader range of benefits on heavier trafficked and higher speed roadways than on quieter local residential streets where residents can safely and comfortably walk along a street edge. Since 2012, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee has maintained a Bicycle and Pedestrian Priority Network map that identifies roadways in Town where a pedestrian and/or bicycle facility is desired and appropriate. The Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee is currently updating this map.
In 2009, the Town Board passed a Complete Streets Resolution. Complete streets are defined as facilities that are designed and operated to enable safe and efficient access for persons with disabilities, pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders. The 2009 resolution recognized these groups as equally important in the planning and design of all new street construction and street reconstruction projects. Sidewalks were an important subject during the 2019 Community Forums that began the current Comprehensive Plan Update effort and they will continue to be a focus of the Town and the Comprehensive Plan Update Committee throughout the Comprehensive Plan Update process.
When considering potential sidewalk projects, the Town considers a variety of factors, including whether or not the project is located on the Priority Network. Town staff evaluates potential sidewalk projects based on a set of criteria that include metrics for safety, utility, potential for activity, geographic distribution of recent sidewalk projects, and project cost. See the Evaluation Process for New Pathway Investment Procedures/Users Guide for more details. The criteria evaluations are used to guide decisions about sidewalk investment, but are not the final determinant.
In 2014, the Town Highway Department conducted a visual survey of the sidewalk network. The assessment documented such items as sidewalk width, material, linear feet distance, issue areas and condition (using the Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating scale of 1-10). Staff used this information to create the Town’s ADA Transition Plan for Pedestrian Facilities within the Public Right-of-Way, which identifies barriers of accessibility and prioritizes improvements that are to be made throughout the Town to increase ADA compliance of the Town’s sidewalk and curb ramp infrastructure. The sidewalk survey revealed that about 25% or 10.7 miles of sidewalk was deficient (rating of 5 or less on a scale of 1 to 10), with 42% of the deficient sidewalks and 10.3% of all sidewalks being rated in rated 3 or 4.
The Town Planning Division reviewed sidewalks in the worst condition (rated 3 - 5) according to the BENEFITS criteria evaluation process for guidance and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee determined the priority sidewalk project ranking based in part on usage. The projects listed in the table below may or may not be completed in the exact order that appears on the table due to available budget and labor resources in any given year. For example, if a sidewalk replacement project scores very high but requires $100,000 of work – beyond the annual budget for sidewalk maintenance ($50,000), the Town may choose to fully complete a slightly lower scoring project within budget and resources than to complete a higher scoring project.
Table A: Sidewalk Maintenance Projects
New sidewalks are necessary to provide greater connectivity and utility throughout the sidewalk network. Sidewalk connections are evaluated using the same criteria as older sidewalks, but there is additional costs and effort for new sidewalk construction projects, as the need for the area to construct the sidewalk may require survey, easement acquisition, and possible drainage or topography issues require grading work and stormwater infrastructure. These elements add cost and time to implementing new sidewalk projects. The Town considers all available grant funding opportunities for new sidewalk construction.
Provided below is a list of new sidewalk requests received to date and as well as possible additions based on the Bicycle and Pedestrian Priority Network map. These sidewalks have received a review based on the benefits criteria evaluation process.
Table B: New Sidewalk Requests and Network Gaps (alphabetical order)
Table C: New Sidewalks Addressing Network Gaps (alphabetical order)
If you wish to discuss a potential sidewalk project, please email firstname.lastname@example.org