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Parents push for sidewalks in front of Ben Davis High School

Posted at 5:46 PM, Oct 16, 2019

INDIANAPOLIS — A push is underway to improve safety on the west side of Indianapolis.

Without sidewalks, students walk in the grass in front of Ben Davis High School, one of the largest schools in the state. Parents have taken up the cause to fix the problem.

"Girls School Road is a real concern," Jennifer Whitt, a Wayne Township parent, said. "It's dangerous to walk up and down it. There are not consistent sidewalks."

Whitt lives across from Ben Davis, and she is behind a post on the Wayne Township Chatter Facebook page called "Operation Sidewalks."

"Our goal is to raise awareness about the dangers of walking in our community," Whitt said. "Someone is going to get killed."

Wayne Township is willing to partner with the city and provide land in front of Ben Davis to build a sidewalk. However, the Department of Public Works said the donation of land does not suddenly allow the department to fund the project now.

DPW said Wayne Township could partner with the agency through the Indianapolis Neighborhood Infrastructure Partnership, which is a matching grant that allows community-based organizations to submit infrastructure improvement ideas.

Wayne Township superintendent Jeff Butts said he appreciates the information about the grant opportunity from the city, but he does not believe it is an issue the school needs to take the lead on. Instead, he said, it is a city issue and one the city should care about.

"We have a beautiful piece of property where students are already walking along Girls School Road," Butts said. "I hate to see students walking through the wet grass to and from school."

Butts said the district has been active in the development of sidewalks along 10th Street and Girls School Road, and it has helped get a sidewalk by Chapelwood Elementary after partnering with Lowe's.

DPW said it is concerned, which is why Girls School Road between 10th and 21st Streets is identified as an area that needs sidewalks.

City-County Councilor Jared Evans represents parts of Wayne Township. He helped get the sidewalk project that is starting on High School Road between Washington Street and Rockville Road approved.

Evans, along with Councilor Andy Harris, hope to get sidewalks along parts of Girls School Road approved as well.

Harris said he is aware of the concerns people have about the need for sidewalks on Girls School Road. He said he has been working with DPW to create funding and says the project is his main infrastructure concern.

"I think it is really important to give those kids and families safe access to Ben Davis High School, the 7th & 8th Grade Center in Chapel Hill and a lot of neighborhoods in that area," Evans said. "It's a quality-of-life thing, and I think residents expect that, rightly so."