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Georgia Tech Prof Awarded $400K Grant For Sidewalk Project

Database of Atlanta streets being created.

The Southeastern Transportation Research, Innovation, Development and Education Center and the and the U.S. Department of Transportation have awarded a two-year, $400,000 grant to a Georgia Tech professor who will use the funds to build an inventory of the physical state of Atlanta's 2,500 miles of sidewalks.

Randall Guensler, a professor in Tech's School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and his team developed an Android platform-based tool on a tablet that will be attached to wheelchairs.

Volunteers will push the wheelchairs on the sidewalks and the tablet will record videos of the sidewalks.

The tablet program also will record the vibrations of the wheelchair as it's being pushed to create an index on the quality of the sidewalk in terms of its condition and assign it score based on a scale of 1 (needs replacement) to 5 (doesn't need replacement).

The goal is to be able to create a database that will help public works planners and other city officials be able to deploy resources toward the most serious problems and improve pedestrians' quality of life.

"For Atlanta, the end goal is an inventory of all the sidewalks," he said.

It comes as the city begins to push enforcement of an existing ordinance that puts the responsibility of maintenance and repair of a given stretch of sidewalk on the owner of the property it touches.

Eventually, the idea is to create an inventory of 13 core metro Atlanta counties, Guensler told Patch.

The team already has done about 50 sidewalk segments to create a benchmark index against which the rest of the city will be measured.

The state of Atlanta's sidewalks is an issue citywide and no area is immune. Guensler, who lives in Virginia-Highland, said it's not entirely clear which area of the city is the worst.

"It's tough to tell right now," he said. "It really is kind of hit-or-miss in different places in the city."

The data collection, which will start later this year, will focus first on streets and along bus routes, transit stations and schools — all areas heavy with foot traffic.

Another part of the research team will be tasked with doing comparative analyses of other regions of the country to gauge the depth of Atlanta's problem relative to metro areas across the nation.

But wait, February 21, 2013 at 12:45 PM
Great and much needed idea... kind of pathetic it is 2013 and we are just getting around to this. Though I am really hoping they don't fix any and I can sue the city of Atlanta for millions when I break my ankle walking down Juniper.
AlwaysGettingBetter February 21, 2013 at 03:18 PM
They'll probably just pay this guy....then wait, and wait, and then it'll be obsolete, so they'll have to do another study in 2024. Let's hope not. They should do entire blocks at the same time....then charge the owners a discounted rate, say $200 bucks instead of one ugly, disjointed patch at a time for $600 bucks per resident. I got tired of "mowing" my sidewalk so I just let juniper grow over it to keep the weeds down. The children like to play in the street anyway...for reals.
donald February 21, 2013 at 03:23 PM
Seems like it would have been better to use the $300,000 to buy a bunch of 80lb bags of concrete and drop them in offenders yards with a shaming sign.
Gigi February 21, 2013 at 11:55 PM
Fantastic news! As an FYI, the Hispanic Health Coalition of Georgia (http://www.hhcga.org) is organizing a 5K Walk for health and pedestrian safety on April 7th (World Health Day) one of the partners is PEDS.org. These organizations have also been fighting for sidewalks and other safety tools in Buford Highway, the deadliest road in GA for pedestrians (and the 4th in the country!)
JD February 25, 2013 at 04:11 PM
Really! The business owner pays for the maintenance of a sidewalk the city should be maintaining using tax money!? OK if MY building provides shade for the city's sidewalk do I get to charge a shade fee for providing the shade! Hey, just using the same twisted logic! I guess the city of Atlanta still has budget allocation problems! WOW!

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