By David Pendered
Atlanta seems to have an endless capacity to talk about the state of sidewalk repair.
By most accounts, the state of repair is poor. The repair bill for more than 1,200 miles of sidewalks is pegged above $150 million. The city’s policy is to dun adjacent property owners for repairs to sidewalks and gutters, though this hasn’t proven to be effective.
The city’s challenge isn’t just maintaining sidewalks. Keeping up with their location is a problem. The Atlanta City Council may add to that burden every time it waives the city’s requirement for subdivision developers to install sidewalks in front of a project. Instead, the council routinely votes to have the sidewalks built elsewhere.
The most recent instance happened in May. The council determined that the public would be better served by filling in the gaps of existing sidewalks, than by having sidewalks constructed in front of the new subdivision.
The case in point involved a subdivision proposed on 2.1 acres located at 4466 Northside Drive. This address is near the intersection with Mt. Paran Road. The council voted to have the required sidewalk built more than two miles away, starting at 1128 Moores Mill Road, about a quarter mile east of the intersection with I-75.
The reason provided in the legislation states:
- “The city council finds that construction of sidewalks along the street frontage of SD-13-004 (4466 Northside Drive, NW) would not benefit said area being that there are no existing sidewalks west of the property to serve as a connection, and
- “Whereas, the city and area residents would be better served by the construction of the sidewalks from SD-13-004, in the gaps in existing sidewalks on the south side of Moores Mill Road, NW starting at the apron of 1128 Moores Mill Road, NW, which is an area heavily traveled by pedestrians and in need of sidewalks.”
Meanwhile, there’s no lack of anecdotes about treacherous stretches of sidewalks in the city. The latest case, said to involve emergency hip surgery and more than $100,000 in medical bills, is on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting of the council’s Public Safety Committee.
Dana Rosenberg claims she was jogging along the PATH trail in Chastain Park when she stumbled on broken pavement and fell. Rosenberg contends she needed surgery to address the dislocation and fracture her hip sustained in the fall on June 27, 2012. Rosenberg’s medical bill exceeds $100,000 and her attorney has filed a lawsuit against the city to pursue her claim, according to the pending legislation.
The city’s administration has recommended the claim be denied.
Meanwhile, at least two sidewalk studies are underway – one by PEDS, with support from the Federal Highway Administration, and a $400,000 project out of Georgia Tech.
In this context, PEDS continues to raise the issue of sidewalk safety and will do so again at a meeting Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Old Council Chambers at Atlanta City Hall.
The meeting will provide an opportunity for the presentation of two sets of recommendations for improving the state of Atlanta’s sidewalks. Richard Mendoza, Atlanta’s commissioner of public works, and Sally Flocks, PEDS’ executive director, are slated to present their suggestions.
Even if the two views are reconciled, the financial reality will remain unchanged – Atlanta hasn’t allocated funds sufficient to pay for sidewalk maintenance, and some residents balk at paying to maintain a public amenity in front of their home – just as they’d balk at paying to repair a pothole in the road in front of their home.
Sidewalk repair could be included in the project list of a proposed bond referendum that Mayor Kasim Reed has mentioned.
However, discussion of borrowing money to fix roads, sidewalks and other means of conveyance has flagged since Atlanta’s elected officials decided to provide $200 million in financing for construction of a new Falcons stadium. The stadium loan is to be repaid through proceeds of the city’s hotel/motel tax.