The long-established Sylvan Park neighborhood and its adjacent fledgling upstart, Sylvan Heights, share a difficult relationship. Railroad tracks literally sever the two west side residential enclaves, and an outdated underpass below a railroad bridge has become a rallying cause for Heights neighbors oppressed by a dangerous walkway.
In recent years, residents of a more cosmopolitan variety have set upon the Heights, and it’s no longer unusual to see someone walking or biking to Murphy Road’s popular retail businesses. But the CSX railroad line bridge on 37th Avenue near Sentinel Drive makes life difficult for the peripatetic suburbanite. The bridge’s two-lane underpass offers no sidewalk, and the concrete walls that frame it leave walkers and bikers little margin for error to dodge a coming vehicle.
“This is an issue not just for pedestrians but for drivers as well,” said Svetlana Stepanovic, president of the Sylvan Heights Neighborhood Association. She’s working with Metro officials, area Councilman Jason Holleman and neighbors in both the Park and the Heights to hit upon a consensus solution.
“They were very attentive — wanting to help and advise — but warned us how hard this will be,” Stepanovic said. Over the years, CSX has not been receptive to modifying its properties. A petition asking the city to rectify the problem has garnered about 300 signatures. On board are area stalwarts Climb Nashville, Nashville Ballet and Nashville Opera.
Stepanovic said signage alone would not suffice. She said neighbors are hoping for a pedestrian cut-through but, barring that, additional sidewalks along 37th Avenue would help. There are no sidewalks south of the bridge, and both sides are pockmarked by ditches and scrub brush.
In general, Stepanovic and others want the neighborhood to fit its new neighbors.
“Our demographics have changed toward the younger and active people who are also environmentally and health-conscious and love to walk/bike to work … and to West End and Sylvan Park area coffee shops and restaurants,” Stepanovic said.
“We hope that no one needs to die in order to attract attention and solve the problem.”