15Sidewalk3A long-awaited sidewalk project has started along Rockfish Road in Hope Mills. The only problem is it will create traffic congestion along the busy road that goes past major town buildings during the roughly two months the project will be in progress.

Mayor Jackie Warner said it’s been about five years since the town got the initial grant to pay for the sidewalk that will cover about 1,100 feet alongside Rockfish Road near Town Hall and the Hope Mills Recreation Center.

Most of the funding for the sidewalk came from a grant from the Department of Transportation, which Warner said was the first DOT grant Hope Mills had ever received.

Unfortunately, there have been multiple delays with the project since its approval, from paperwork problems to engineering issues to having a tough time finding a contractor, as too many projects repairing damage caused by Hurricane Matthew were in the works.

There was a time the town even considered giving the grant money back because of a possibility the sidewalk could be constructed and then Rockfish Road might one day be widened, forcing destruction of the new sidewalk.

Warner said the town finally decided not to return the grant money and to use it for the purpose it was received.

The sidewalk is part of a long-range goal to connect the Rockfish Road area with South Main Street and eventually Trade Street.

Warner said the eventual aim is for people to be able to walk all the way from the area around Town Hall and the Recreation Center down to Hope Mills Lake and the Trade Street businesses.

This ties in with the town’s multimodal congestion program, which is aimed at making the whole Main Street area pedestrian-friendly with more sidewalks and bike trails, giving the public more options for getting around so they can leave their cars at home and hopefully reduce vehicle traffic.

Warner said it was easy to apply for the initial grant for sidewalks on Rockfish Road because of the neighborhood it was located in.

“The number of kids that live in the neighborhood can walk to school or have access to the school, library and gym (at the recreation center),’’ she said.

Hector Cruz, who heads up public works for the town of Hope Mills, said the construction crew is aiming to have the sidewalk done by mid-August, but he indicated he wouldn’t be surprised if it takes longer than that.

Barring any major complications, Cruz said, the construction work will take place from around 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and traffic will be reduced to one lane while the crews are out.

The major problem that will slow the work down, aside from weather delays, is the large amount of underground utilities in the area, including gas, fiber optics, water and sewer.

“They are marked, but when you start digging, you find something else,’’ he said.

He said the crew encountered fiber optic cables a couple of weeks ago that were marked, but the marking didn’t indicate how far below the ground they were. That forced the digging to stop, and an engineer had to be brought in to sort the problem out.

Another problem will be that portions of the sidewalk will require the installation of storm drains. “It’s a matter of getting curb, gutter and sidewalk built,’’ Cruz said.

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