Berlin Commits To Improving Sidewalks

BERLIN – Sidewalks are a perennial Berlin discussion item, but this week town staff indicated some progress in repairing the often-crumbling town walkways.

The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) has recently completed repairs on sidewalks along Bay St., and moved on to working on the handicapped ramps on Main St, said Public Works Director Mike Gibbons at Monday night’s Berlin Mayor and Council meeting.

Gibbons hopes that the additional money in that contract will be directed to more sidewalk work on SHA roads in Berlin.

“The goal is to get more sidewalks done in some of these areas that are in very bad shape,” said Gibbons.

Bids received this week should fund a project to replace around 4,000 square feet of old and crumbling walkways.

Many sidewalks in Berlin, while not dangerous, are broken up and pose tripping hazards, Gibbons said. The largely concrete walkways are unleveled in many areas and inaccessible for handicapped users.

Berlin Mayor Gee Williams and Gibbons walked Berlin streets last week to identify sidewalks most in need of repair.

“We’re talking about several areas,” said Williams.

The idea is to get started and do something about the perpetual sidewalk problem instead of just talking about it, he said. Work should start on downtown problem spots.

“You’ll go a distance and certain things are fine and then something’s just atrocious,” Williams said.

Some work will begin immediately, while some will be funded under the next budget.

The sidewalk problem in Berlin has persisted for decades. Williams recalled that, in 1971 during his early days as a local journalist, one of the first articles he wrote concerned problem sidewalks in Berlin.

“It’s a blight on an otherwise beautiful town,” Williams said. “The money’s been there. Why it wasn’t always used I don’t know.”

The plan is to do some sidewalk work every year, with sidewalk maintenance and repair becoming a routine part of public works’ responsibilities.

“There’s places where sidewalks just stop. There’s never been a policy. There’s never been a directive by the town that we’re going to do something about it,” said Williams.

A recent town resident survey revealed that deteriorating sidewalks are a major concern, according to the mayor.

“This is something people said we’re not satisfied with,” said Williams.