By Dave Taylor
A bicycle accident along the busy state road into Lewisport Saturday highlighted what the city says is a need for a sidewalk along the road that is heavily traveled by both cars and pedestrians, but that the state has refused to install one or even let the city do it on its own.
Emergency crews were called to KY-657 Saturday afternoon after an elderly woman attempting to move over for a passing car got off the edge of the pavement and careened into a concrete culvert and a power pole on the east side of the road, knocking herself out.
That stretch of KY-657, or 4th Street, is the only route people walking or riding from Poplar Grove Apartments or Hancock Park can take to get to the stores along Highway 60, and they must share the road with cars all hours of the day and night because for about half the distance there’s no shoulder at all.
“We’ve had problems with it for years,” said Lewisport Mayor Chad Gregory. “We’ve tried to provide more lighting out there at night because there are people that walk out through that way at night. And I know it’s dangerous because I’ve almost hit an individual myself.”
The city has tried for years to get the state to put in a sidewalk with no luck.
“They have stalled us and stalled us on putting a sidewalk out on 4th Street,” Gregory said.
Although locals call that stretch 4th Street, it’s technically also KY-657 and a state road, meaning the state controls what happens to it and beside it.
“The city of Lewisport cannot go out there and put a sidewalk,” he said. “Believe me, if we could do it and if I could find a way around it, it would’ve already been done.”
It’s not for lack of trying.
In an August 3, 2017 Clarion article, city councilman Wes Pate told the council that he had grown up in Hancock Park hearing that there would eventually be a sidewalk, and that since he was now a councilman he had reached out to state representative Dean Schamore for help to finally make some progress.
No progress was made in 2017, but the attempts go back much farther than that, since even before Gregory’s four terms as mayor, when he was just a council member.
“I’ve been up there for 22, almost 23 years and it was even discussed before I even came on,” he said. “It’s been at least 30 years that I can remember.”
“I’ve been mayor for 16 years and the excuses I get from the state level, I just don’t even deal with them any more,” he said.
The city has even tried to install a sidewalk itself on the west side of the road where there was no development and they could build beyond the state right of ways.
“We talked about doing it off 4th Street, but the easements were so complicated it couldn’t be done,” he said. “Every attorney we had to look at that, it just couldn’t be done.”
On the east side, where all the people live and work, and where everyone walks and bikes already, the state has the easements and control of what happens with them, and Gregory said they haven’t been convinced to install a sidewalk and he’s not sure why.
“I really can’t explain it,” he said. “I think that they feel like there’s no need for that stretch of sidewalk.”
They’ve also told the city that it would be expensive and take time they don’t have, which Gregory called more excuses.
Costs wouldn’t be a major issue for the state, he said, because the city has offered to do the work just to make the project happen.
“We can do the drainage work and the tile work, but they will not even let us do that,” he said.
Keirsten Jaggers, public information officer for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, said in an email that while the state isn’t planning to build a sidewalk, that the city still could.
“At this point, we are not at a juncture to add a sidewalk at the location in question as there is currently no plans to widen that section of roadway,” Jaggers said. “The city can add sidewalks to the location. There is a TAP Grant (Transportation Alternative Program). The application cycle is not open at this time (applications can only be sent when the application cycle is open).”
Emergency personnel said Tuesday that the woman in the bike wreck, whose name wasn’t released, suffered non life-threatening injuries. Messages left for Democrat representative Schamore and Republican senator Matt Castlen weren’t returned.