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18-year project in the making along Tharpe Street aims to bring safer infrastructure to community

Posted at 7:26 PM, Jan 17, 2023

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — A Leon County and City of Tallahassee agency is working to make improvements to a 2.7-mile stretch of Tharpe Street, from Capital Circle Northwest to Ocala Road.

It's a plan to add sidewalks, a bike lane, and to widen the road are all possible outcomes to an 18-year project that might finally come to light. It also hopes to improve the safety of residents who regularly travel along the road. Right now, residents are forced to walk close to traffic and through roadside ditches in order to get to where they're going.

According to the CRTPA, many of the people living near that area of Tharpe Street are facing significant financial or physical burdens. Just over 39% of households are below the poverty level. For a family of four, that means they make less than $27,750 per year. The median household income there is $31,458, compared to Leon County's median household income of $54,675 and 11% of the population is disabled. On top of that, a lack of pedestrian and bike accommodations are presenting even more barriers to community connectivity.

"Driving by the street I literally see pedestrians on the road it can be a little dangerous," said Andrew Yao, a graduate student at FSU who lives along Tharpe Street in Tallahassee. He, just like dozens of other community members, want to see better safety measures come along the road.

"It's dangerous and I also see kids getting off the bus and it's not level at all, so they sometimes go into a ditch and walk in the road and I've seen cars swerve around them and like I said I'm temporarily staying here not long at all but when I walk my dog it's very dangerous and there really needs to be a sidewalk down here," said a man named Randy, who also lives along Tharpe Street and feels the same way. This issue is something the city and county have been working on since 2005 and are finally making new strides to get it done…now with the help of Capital Regional Transportation Planning Agency (CRTPA) and Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency.

Schools, churches, homes, bus stops, and pedestrians all exist along Tharpe Street except a bike lane or sidewalk.

"Using transit, a lot of them need to access their jobs and may not have access to a car and they may need to ride their bike but it's just a two-lane road and there are no bike lanes it's very unsafe, " said Greg Burke, the Planning Manager at CRTPA. He says they're working on securing $2 million in federal funding for phase one of the project which will involve figuring out what the community needs most and determining if they will build a sidewalk, bike lane, or widen the road...or a combination of those things.

"What we can't do is allow you know 7 or 8 years from now we're 25 years in for funding or lack thereof to be the reason we haven't made any sizeable improvements to Tharpe Street," added Leon County Commissioner, Nick Maddox, who is part of the CRTPA board. He wants to try and break this project down into pieces to get it done quicker and keep their promises of safety to the community.

Something Yao hopes will come true, "I'm sure with the community being nicer with sidewalks and everything it will be an overall nicer community safer hopefully."

Blueprint IA and CRTPA still have to secure funding to design and build…a process that might take up to 6 more years. They'll find out if they secure the $2 million for phase one of the project early this year.