Exactly where do the city's broken sidewalks end?
Perhaps nowhere. Some 853 sections of city sidewalk are designated as needing repair, according to the city's Department of Public Works. The total price tag is $21.2 million.
The city's list of capital sidewalk repair projects continues to grow, with many of the needed repairs dating as far back as 2004, according to records obtained by Style Weekly through a Freedom of Information Act request.
How did the list get so long? Lamont Benjamin, capital projects administrator for the Public Works Department, says part of the problem can be traced to the age of the city's infrastructure. The older the sidewalk — whether brick or concrete — the more likely it is to succumb to natural wear and tear or weather damage. Another big reason, he says: "We don't have enough money."
Indeed, the amount of public money earmarked by the city for sidewalk construction and repair has dwindled steadily in recent years. The latest version of the city's 2013 budget allots just $750,000 for sidewalk repair.
And that's just a glimpse. A full picture of how bad sidewalks are in the city isn't available, Benjamin says. Each repair project is evaluated by contractors or department staff, assigned an estimated cost and then sorted into the list by assessed priority. The money for a proposed citywide assessment of need hasn't been approved, he says.
The department hopes to complete 23 projects during the 2012 fiscal year, Benjamin says. At that rate, it will take 37 years to fix the sidewalks listed as needing repair.
First District Councilman Bruce Tyler acknowledges that the repair process is "protracted." The state of the city can "be assessed by the state of its infrastructure," he says. "In that sense, we need to do better."