RANSON — Ranson officials want you to take a walk.
That’s the reason for the recent sidewalk renovation and crosswalk projects being completed on and around Mildred Street.
“The biggest priorities were to make sure that we had good, clear, wide sidewalks and improve Old Town,” said Duke Pierson, who has served on the Ranson Streets Committee for nearly 20 years and currently chairs it.
The work, which began last August, will be the first in a series of urban renewal for the city of Ranson.
The larger sidewalks, along with other pedestrian safety measures, will encourage foot traffic, slow vehicular traffic and improve street-side business conditions, according to project designer John Ruddman with KCI Technology.
“The main purpose of sidewalk widening, and it is an important one, is to provide a pedestrian-friendly environment,” Ruddman said. “If it gets too narrow, a lady with a stroller isn’t going to feel safe. The purpose of on-street parking is not only to park but to provide the pedestrian a buffer. It also slows the traffic.”
Ruddman said a wider sidewalks will also encourage sociability among local residents and provide area businesses space to set up outdoor tables and chairs.
“I think it is important for people to know their neighbors,” he said. “When you’re sitting in our cars it is tough to get out and talk. I think it is a public good to provide an environment where people can interact safely together.”
Another major goal was to beautify the area, a goal that was served by planting several new trees and by removing some trees that were past their prime, Pierson said.
“One big concern was putting down some really nice trees,” he said. “A lot of the fully grown trees had cracked the sidewalks in the area. The new trees are in tree barrels, so they will not destroy the sidewalks.”
The project was funded by a $300,000 transportation improvement grant, according to City Manager Andy Blake, adding the grant was one of several that total around $7 million the city has secured as part of the Ranson Renewed project.
“The advantages of streetscaping downtown in the commercial quarter are that it will help raise property values, encourage economic development, beautify the urban core and continue trying to improve our overall infrastructure in the city,” Blake said.
Mayor David Hamill said the work is already bearing fruit.
“It has been very effective. We have people who are making financial commitments to enhance their own properties,” Hamill said. “It absolutely sets a new tone. When you improve something … it provides opportunities for people to stop and look and say, ‘Hey, these guys really appear to know what they’re doing.’”