Burgess Road is a narrow street, majority of which is inside the Pensacola city limits, that has become a “cut-through” traffic for those avoiding the traffic lights on Davis Highway and seeking shortcuts to Creighton Road and Ninth Avenue. It has no sidewalks and is lined with drainage ditches.
Three schools are located nearby—Holm Elementary, Workman Middle and Washington High. Middle and high school students in the area aren’t eligible to be picked by school buses because the neighborhoods along Burgess are considered walk zones—two miles from Washington, one mile from Workman.
I tried to walk Burgess Road this morning from Davis Highway to Lanier Drive. As cars sped by, I trekked in the rain for a few minutes but I realized this was too risky even for me. The road has two solar-powered signs that warn motorists of the 25mph speed limit and flash the speed of the oncoming traffic. Only one of the signs worked this morning.
If school children make out it out of the city limits to Sanders Street, they can walk south on a sidewalk that the county has installed. On a rainy morning like today, that’s a big “if.”
In May 2011, the Parker Circle Neighborhood Association presented a petition to Mayor Ashton Hayward and the city council asking for something to be done to claim traffic on Burgess and for sidewalks to be added (Burgess Cry for Help). The association president, John Phillips, challenged Hayward and council to walk the street
“When you do this, you will experience for yourself the difficulty of movement, access and the physical danger from both the road traffic and the hazardous terrain,” said Phillips. Other than Councilwoman Sherri Myers, I’m not sure the mayor or any other council members have walked Burgess Road.
Councilwoman Myers and County Commissioner Grover Robinson tried to get the city and county to work together on Burgess Road. County Administrator Randy Oliver sent on Jan. 27, 2011 a letter to Mayor Hayward. Read ashton_hayward,_burgess_rd_sidewalks,_1-27-11
“The County’s construction management staff has evaluated the complete section for sidewalks, including the portion within city limits,” said Oliver. He estimated the total project cost was $1.45 million—$400,000 in the county, $1.05 million in the city. He was ready to propose the work be added to the District 4 sidewalks projects for 2011-2013. Hayward wouldn’t commit to the project.
Councilwoman Myers has included the Burgess Road sidewalks in her 2011, 2012 and 2013 budget requests to the mayor. Chief of Staff John Asmar and Cynthia Williams worked with Myers and the county on a grant for the sidewalks, but the deadline was missed. Since Asmar and Williams both left the city, no other grant requests have been made by city staff, despite Myers continued requests for help.
Homeowners along Burgess Road have become increasingly frustrated.
Myers shared this August 2013 email from a Burgess Road resident:
I am concerned about the fact that the Escambia County School District has moved my child’s bus stop nearly three times the distance from my house from the last school year. I understand the movement of the bus stop is not within your control and I am taking that issue up with the county; however, it reminds me of a bigger issue, Mayor Hayward’s lack of inaction on our road.
Prior to living on Burgess road, I have lived in other less busy areas of the City of Pensacola which have at least sidewalks and am very concerned that the Mayor has not found funding to install sidewalks on our road. Based on the prior actions taken by the city thus far and the increased ticketing that has occurred, clearly the city acknowledges the dangerous issue that exists in this corridor, but continues to do nothing about it.
When you see the Mayor ask him if he would have his children walk three tenths of a mile along such a dangerous road to only then have to cross the road and allow his child to board a school bus. Better yet, he should walk the route that my child does every morning with the cars flying by her.
The mayor’s office considers a Councilwoman Myers a political opponent, but is that any reason for him and those on the city council in his camp to put children along Burgess Road at risk? I understand his major focus is economic development, but public safety, especially the lives of children, should also be a priority.
This is also begs the question: what other city neighborhoods are battling traffic issues that put their children in danger when they walk to school?