By Amy Wenk

Around 7 a.m. last Friday, Rosa Roman Lugo walked her 7-year-old son Jose down a worn path alongside Lake Forest Drive between Cliftwood Drive and Allen Road in Sandy Springs. Just inches from the road and passing traffic, Lugo followed her son until they reached Lake Forest Elementary School, where Jose attends third grade.

Families and students walking to the school could soon have a safer stroll as the city looks to start sidewalk construction at the elementary school on Sandy Springs Circle before the year ends.

Although funds for the construction were allocated in the city’s 2008 and 2009 budgets, the nearly $1 million project has been delayed due to design challenges.

“Sidewalks look simple, but you have got to keep them level,” Dist. 3 City Councilman Rusty Paul said. “And there are not too many level stretches of Sandy Springs. If you walk around, you find that there are a lot of hills and valleys.”

The topography of the Lake Forest Drive presents several obstacles.

“We have to build a wall, and there is a creek we have to worry about,” said Jon Drysdale, deputy director of Public Works. “The shoulder is very, very small, and it is very, very complicated. We have to design a wall to keep the dirt from going away, because it is very steep on one section.”

In order to construct near a creek, the city was required to obtain a stream buffer variance from the state. That process, Drysdale said, took months and stopped progress on the sidewalk’s design. Now that the variance is approved, the city can proceed and is still acquiring right of way for the project.

“We added a little section on Hammond [Drive], close to the intersection of Hammond and Lake Forest, and that took some time,” Drysdale said.

He expects to bid out the project in September and have City Council approve the contract in October.

“The construction could start before the end of the year,” he said, granted everything goes as planned. The project will take 180 days to complete, weather permitting.