Norman business owner questions sidewalk

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NORMAN, Okla. -- A small business owner in Norman said the city is asking him to do something that could put the public at risk. 

It involves the train tracks running through that city. 

The city of Norman has had a string of train vs. pedestrian accidents lately, four in the last two months. 

Three of those were fatal and the other victim lost both his legs. 

That's why this Norman business owner is questioning the city's decision.

"I'm tired of fighting with them," Mike Milligan said. "If they want a sidewalk to nowheres I'm going to give it to them.  

Milligan said he's ready to end the battle with city hall. 

But he's still concerned about what they're asking him to do. 

"If somebody gets killed by this train by using my sidewalk to get there, am I liable? They said, 'Oh no,'" Milligan said. 

Milligan bought his property at Rock Creek and Flood for his trucking business. 

In order to build on the land, the city told him he has to put in a sidewalk. 

"I said, 'A sidewalk for what?' They said, 'You have to put a sidewalk in front of your property.'  I said, 'Well, why?'" Milligan said.

It's all part of the city of Norman's master plan to have continuous sidewalks through the city. 

But Milligan's sidewalk is in an industrial area and would lead right up to the railroad tracks.

He and his wife, Cindy, said it makes no sense; especially in light of the recent train vs. pedestrian accidents in Norman. 

"We don't see how it's safe to have a sidewalk that leads right into railroad tracks," Cindy Milligan said.

Norman Public Works Director Shawn O'Leary said there are many sidewalks leading over railroad tracks in Norman. 

"We anticipate sidewalks on every major arterial street in Norman someday," O'Leary said. "Unfortunately, we build them one parcel at a time or one larger project at a time and it's hard to see why this one would be valuable but we think it will be."  

He said the city does not believe sidewalks have played a role in any of the recent accidents.  "Right now, we're of the mind that sidewalks are a good thing whether they're crossing railroad tracks or intersections and we should continue to do those," said O'Leary.  But the Milligans say it's putting a strain on their small business and putting the public at risk.  "It's absolutely ridiculous," said Milligan.

   The Milligan's final platt for their business is on the consent agenda for this Thursday night's monthly planning commission meeting in Norman.  O'Leary says he expects it will go through because the Milligans have not specifically asked for an exemption from the sidewalk requirement.

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