New city program addresses badly needed sidewalk repairs

by Jessica Vargas on August 2, 2018

Denver Public Works launches new sidewalk repair program

As Denver strives to become more inclusive and sustainable, the City must provide the basic infrastructure that allows people to safely and easily get around: sidewalks. Walkable neighborhoods with good sidewalks are the foundation of a complete transportation system that offers safe and practical options beyond just the personal automobile. Walkability can greatly improve the health, economy, and overall livability of our neighborhoods by reducing household transportation costs, dependence on automobiles, and our contribution to climate change.

Safe, well-maintained sidewalks are so important to providing access for all Denverites trying to accomplish their daily activities – whether it’s children walking to school, people with disabilities trying to catch the bus, parents with strollers on their way to the park, or older adults walking to the store. In late 2015, WalkDenver launched the Denver Deserves Sidewalks campaign and collected almost 3,000 signatures and 34 support letters from neighborhood and community-based organizations, so we know there is strong support for improving walkability in our city.

The City’s longstanding policy has for many decades placed the responsibility for building and repairing sidewalks on adjacent property owners, even though sidewalks are part of the public right-of-way. Up until now, the City has not actively enforced this policy nor provided any subsidy to low-income homeowners, and so sidewalks throughout Denver have fallen into serious disrepair, creating safety hazards and limiting accessibility. In many cases, people with disabilities are forced to ride their wheelchairs in the street along with vehicular traffic, or to take long detours, or to simply stay home, for lack of an accessible sidewalk.

Starting in mid-August, Denver Public Works is implementing a new citywide program to address sidewalks that are damaged, uneven, and sloping excessively. The Neighborhood Sidewalk Repair program is designed to systematically notify property owners of hazardous sidewalk conditions that need to be addressed, while providing helpful information about repair methods and financial assistance to homeowners who qualify. To help with the repairs, the City is offering extended repayment assistance and affordability discounts, up to 100% of the cost, for property owners who qualify. The City is also authorizing less expensive repair methods not currently allowed, such as grinding.

This new program is not a complete solution to the sidewalk issues in our city – ultimately, WalkDenver would like the City to take over full responsibility for repairing sidewalks, just like they maintain transportation infrastructure below the curb – but it is a great step toward making Denver more walkable by acknowledging and proactively addressing the need for sidewalk repair. After years of insufficiently addressing the quality and maintenance of a crucial component of the transportation network, the City is finally taking a more thoughtful and intentional approach toward sidewalk maintenance. WalkDenver is excited for the program to finally launch and we are committed to supporting its success by helping to connect residents to information and resources.

The City will start inspections in an area roughly bounded by Broadway, 20th Avenue, Downing Street, and Alameda Avenue (referred to as “Section 1, Region 1”). Property owners in this area are invited to attend a public meeting to learn more about the program. More information can be found at the program’s website.

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