Private railroad bridge a factor in car accidents in 'the Sylvans'

Posted By Kinnard, Clayton & Beveridge || Feb 21, 2011

Residents of two west-side Nashville neighborhoods, Sylvan Park and Sylvan Heights, have come together to work toward changing a dangerous roadway they believe poses a serious risk of pedestrian and car accidents. The neighborhoods lie on either side of railroad tracks privately owned by CSX Corporation, and the residents say that an outdated underpass beneath a railroad bridge is too dangerous for the pedestrians and bicyclists that are increasingly common in the area.

The railroad bridge in question is on 37th Avenue just south of Sentinel Drive. The two-lane underpass was originally intended for vehicular traffic alone. It is framed by concrete walls and has no sidewalk. There is no good alternate route, either. South of the bridge on 37th Avenue, there are no sidewalks either, and the roadsides are covered with brush and ditches, making it hazardous, especially for bicyclists.

Railroad underpass design gives no leeway in bicycle and pedestrian accidents

In recent years, as people have become more interested in seeking healthier, more cost-effective and more environmentally friendly transportation, pedestrian and bicycle traffic has increased dramatically in the area. Unfortunately, the concrete tunnel beneath the railroad bridge gives walkers and bikers little opportunity to get out of the way should a car or truck accident occur.

"This is an issue not just for pedestrians but for drivers as well," explained Svetlana Stepanovic, president of the Sylvan Heights Neighborhood Association, to a Nashville Post reporter.

"Our demographics have changed toward the younger and active people who are also environmentally and health-conscious and love to walk/bike to work," Stepanovic says, "and to West End and Sylvan Park area coffee shops and restaurants."

"We hope that no one needs to die in order to attract attention and solve the problem."

Stepanovic has been working with residents of both Sylvan Heights and Sylvan Park, Metro officials and area Councilman Jason Holleman to try to develop a road design solution that could cut down on the risk to pedestrians and bicyclists. A petition asking the City of Nashville to fix the flaws in the road and shoulder design has collected about 300 signatures so far. The group also has the support of area businesses such as Climb Nashville, the Regions Bank School of Nashville Ballet and the Nashville Opera Association.

Added signage has been proposed, but Stepanovic says that isn't enough. The group would like a pedestrian cut-through to be built around the underpass. If that can't be accomplished, they would like additional sidewalks and proper grading along 37th Avenue to get pedestrians and bikers well out of the way of potential car accidents.

One issue is that changes to the road and walkway design might require modification of land that is privately owned by CSX, and the company has not been receptive to that in the past.

Of the meeting with city officials, Stepanovic was pleased but realistic. "They were very attentive - wanting to help and advise - but warned us how hard this will be," she told the Nashville Post.

Categories: Car Accidents
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