Summer means time to fix trip hazards in Bel Air

It's summer in Bel Air and that means, among many other things, it's time to "trim" sidewalks.

For the second straight year, the Bel Air Town Commissioners have approved a contract to have what are called trip hazards removed from select sidewalks around town.

"It's really appreciated," Mayor Susan Burdette said about the process of cutting down concrete in areas where two pieces come together, and one is higher than the other. The uneven edges are a hazard to pedestrians.

"Of all the things we do," the mayor said, "this is the thing we get the most complaints about. We also get the most comments when they're repaired."

By a 3-0 vote on July 17, the town board approved spending $41,420 to have Precision Concrete Cutting of Delaware and Maryland repair 828 trip hazards on sidewalks and another 19 linear feet of trip hazards on curbs. Commissioners Philip Einhorn, Robert Preston and Burdette voted for it. Commissioners Brendan Hopkins and Patrick Richards were absent.

A year ago, Bel Air approved spending $49,680 with the same company to remove 785 trip hazards on sidewalk pads and another 129 linear feet of trip hazards along curbs in the downtown area.

"As concrete sidewalk ages and is affected by other external forces, panels often heave or settle causing an unleveled or uneven joint which ultimately causes tripping hazards for pedestrians," Steve Kline, Bel Air's director of public works, said at the July 17 meeting during a presentation to the town commissioners. "In an effort to make town sidewalks safe for all users, trip hazards must be removed to provide a leveled safe walking surface."

This year's work will be done along Archer and Williams streets, Idlewild Road and Linwood Avenue.

"All the years I was living in Homestead [Village], I was tripping on sidewalks," Preston said. "I don't guess it's gotten any better."

Idlewild and Linwood are in the Homestead Village neighborhood and Archer and Williams are in the Howard Park neighborhood.

Aravinda Pillamarri, a Bel Air resident who walks regularly around town, was skeptical when she heard about the project before it started last year and wondered if the town should be spending its money elsewhere.

"When I first saw them doing it, I thought it was a luxury," she said about cutting the trip hazards.

The idea has grown on her.

"I've been known to not always look closely when I walk," she said.

Precision Concrete goes to a previously identified trip hazard and cuts the sidewalk or curb — no mean feat since sidewalks are an aggregate. Using its unique tool, the trip hazard is cut off and in its stead is a gentle slop that's much safer for pedestrians. The concrete is smooth as are the rocks that are still intact in it.

Einhorn, who voted for the contract, asked Kline why the town was having Precision Concrete do the work.

"I've just wondered why we don't have our own people do this," Einhorn said.

Kline, the public works director, said Precision Concrete has come up with a unique design.

"It's a very specialized tool and the saw is patented," he said.

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