County officials recently approved a change order to the widening of North Belair Road between Washington and Evans-to -Locks roads to include almost a mile of new sidewalks and multi-use trails in the area.
The added walkways in the Evans Town Center will connect to those already in place along other portions of North Belair and Washington roads.
"This will basically just kind of create a sidewalk system through the Evans Town Center," said Matt Schlachter, the county Construction and Maintenance Services director. "People can walk around the downtown area."
The widening of North Belair Road is ongoing, and work has already started on the sidewalks along either side of the road from Washington Road to Evans to Locks Road, Schlachter said.
A multi-use trail already runs alongside Evans-to-Locks Road from Savannah Rapids Pavilion to Blue Ridge Drive. Schlachter said the project includes an extension of that along Evans-to-Locks Road from North Belair to Evans Town Center Boulevard, where it will continue to the Evans Town Center Park. Plans for that park include sidewalks that also will connect to those next to Ronald Reagan Drive.
"It'll create a good sidewalk corridor through this area," Schlachter said.
Plans are to eventually connect the two sections of the trail, which is a paved 10-foot-wide path, with the older section. Schlachter said he's working out details with the railroad to take the path across the tracks on Evans-to-Locks Road.
When work is completed, pedestrians will be able to walk from Lowe's to Ronald Reagan Drive, including the Evans Town Center Park, Government Center and Columbia County Library.
When county officials planned the Evans Town Center Overlay District more than a decade ago, the hopes were to create a pedestrian-friendly downtown center. The district is based on a set of zoning guidelines radiating out for a mile from Washington at North Belair roads.
Schlachter said the sidewalks and trails were added to the widening project, which cost less than expected.
"There were no sidewalks in that project originally," Schlachter said.
"We came in well under budget. So we decided it would be wise to use some of the leftover money in that budget to construct the sidewalks while we had a contractor out there working. That's the convenience if we build it now."
The sidewalks cost an additional $170,000 on top of the approximately $2.5 million project cost. The original budget for the project was about $5 million, Schlachter said.
Sidewalk construction is under way and Schlachter expects work to start on the trail within two weeks. He hopes all will be complete by September.
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