OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) — A disabled man in Oak Ridge is afraid he’s going to be hit by a car as he walks to and from work. A big section of sidewalk he uses has been torn up at a construction site on Illinois Avenue.
Michael Payne and his parents told WATE they’d like to see something done. There is only a narrow pathway to navigate for about 50 yards. The family said that safe passage is being denied not only to those with disabilities but to anyone who has to walk on the tiny grass strip.
Payne has to tip-toe his way on a narrow piece of grass as oncoming cars round the corner of Tulane Avenue. The sidewalk has been closed and removed as a big construction project is underway for an apartment complex and restaurant at Illinois and Tulane Avenues.
The Doubletree Hotel, where Payne works as a dishwasher, is next to the site. Following strict federal and state guidelines, the contractor temporarily removed the sidewalk to connect the construction site’s stormwater system to the existing city system.
“When they tore the sidewalk up, he said, ‘Mom,’ he goes, ‘I’m afraid to go up through there.’ He almost has to walk on the road,” said Kelley Green, Payne’s mother.
Kelley and Glenn Green are concerned for Payne. They adopted their son with special needs 27 years ago. He’s independent today and they want to keep him safe. They’re not only concerned for their son but for other people who walk on the dirt pathway. So, they asked the City of Oak Ridge for help.
“I kind of thought that they might fix it. But when they didn’t, I started making calls. I have been calling for over two months,” said Glenn Green, Michael’s father.
“I think it’s awful. I personally wouldn’t want to walk where he has to walk,” said Kelley Green.
Of the path he now takes to work, Payne said it is very dangerous.
“It’s dangerous. When you walk, it’s about five times almost or more I almost got hit,” said Payne. “I feel like I’m going to die, that’s why I’m scared of it.”
“He had no problem walking back and forth to work before the sidewalk got torn up,” she said.
“I want to see this get fixed for special needs people and wheelchairs because this is not right for them. And I want it to get fixed, to be safe again, walking,” said Payne.
“There are people that travel this sidewalk in wheelchairs, probably daily. It’s got them cut off from everything,” said Glenn Green.
A city spokesperson said the contractor has not violated the Americans With Disabilities Act since there is an alternative route. They added that since the sidewalk is closed, Payne needs to walk 750 feet north to the intersection of Tulsa Road where there’s a signalized intersection and pedestrian crossing lights available.
“I just want this opened up where he will have safe passage, for him and the people here in Oak Ridge,” said Glenn Green.
Before construction projects get underway, there are a series of regulations general contractors have to follow. One of them deals with the temporary disruption of either vehicle or foot traffic.
The project along Illinois and Tulane Avenues is expected to be completed within a year.