There might – finally – be some positive developments in a 34-year-old dispute regarding sidewalk maintenance in Bowling Green.

The city and state have been at odds regarding which entity is responsible for maintaining the approximately 44 miles of sidewalks in the city limits along state roads, such as U.S. 31-W By-Pass and Cemetery Road.

The disagreement stems from a 1985 maintenance agreement. The disputed passage in the agreement is: “The City shall maintain the sidewalks, sanitary sewers and appurtenances, not constructed by the Department.”

The state has maintained for decades that the intent of the agreement is that the city assumes responsibility for maintenance of the sidewalks, while the city has claimed the intent is the opposite.

The result has been that the sidewalks have been largely neglected. Some of the sidewalks in question were built as far back as the 1940s, and with no regular maintenance, some are “basically rubble,” Bowling Green Public Works Director Greg Meredith said.

The city has spent millions in recent years on building new sidewalks and rehabbing others, but has not touched the disputed sidewalks because of the cost and potential liability.

City Attorney Gene Harmon said previously that the state has immunity from lawsuits stemming from things such as falls on damaged sidewalks, while the city does not.

While both sides continue to maintain their position is the correct one, there is one thing that is indisputable – pedestrians in Bowling Green are the ones who have suffered.

Not only are there safety issues regarding walking on the crumbling sidewalks, their appearance is an eyesore.

But a solution may be on the horizon.

City commissioners earlier this month approved applying for a $640,000 Transportation Alternatives Program grant administered through the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

The grant funds would be used to repair, under city supervision, all the sidewalks in question. The city would then agree to maintain the sidewalks in perpetuity, effectively settling the long-standing dispute.

The state is on board with this potential solution, and so are we.

We hope that the grant application is approved and this prolonged dispute – which undoubtedly has gone on far too long – can finally be settled to the benefit of all.

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