Sidewalks are a contentious topic around these parts. We here at Urban Indy like to advocate for more of them. Wider ones than currently exist and even go as far as to say, “Why don’t you add a grass strip between the street and the sidewalk for an extra measure of safety.” It is easy to talk about these types of improvements. It is NOT however, easy to get them implemented. Figuring out how to make suggestions to the city conjures images of scaling fences topped with barbed wire. It’s tough to figure out how to make progress,Â be heard, and ultimately to enjoy the success of new sidewalks in our neighborhoods.
I spent some time going back and forth with Molly Deuberry of the Indianapolis Department of Public Works (DPW) and chatted about sidewalks. How is construction planned? How is upkeep planned? What has priority? How much does it cost to build new sidewalks? Why does it cost so much? When a new sidewalk is built, who decides where it is going to be built? If there are homes there, how are owners affected by new sidewalks being constructed? I dug even further and asked a “what if?” type of question. What if a street or neighborhood wants to build new sidewalks in their neighborhood, but the city says no? How can they take action to make new sidewalks a reality? Following is a question and answer between her and I regarding these topics.
Q: How is construction planned?Â
A:When street segments are identified for resurfacing, we send our designers to assess the road condition and the condition of the existing sidewalks. They identify panels in need of repair and they include them within their design. Installation of new sidewalks are typically designed based on requested need from the public especially in areas around schools and churches. Previously, the City hasnâ€™t had a program to install new sidewalks.Â We are working on changing that through RebuildIndy.
Q: How is upkeep planned?Â
A:According to City ordinance, the maintenance of sidewalks (snow removal, for example) is up to the resident.Â However, I think you may be talking more about long-term maintenance of broken panels.Â Sidewalk segments are entered into our database based on the dates they were constructed.Â There is not a plan in place and that is why RebuildIndy is neededâ€”to not only address those areas of need but to recognize that there needs to be a long-term maintenance plan.Â Now that we are looking at the installation of new sidewalks, which hasnâ€™t been done before, we are also looking at a plan to maintain them.
Q: What has priority?Â
A: Areas near schools and residential streets have priority to move pedestrians safely through neighborhoods and areas near churches and schools.
Q: How much does it cost to build new sidewalks?Â
A: The cost of the project varies based on utility relocation, grading required, tree removal, driveway approach upgrades, etc.Â Our cost recently has ranged between $60-70/foot.
Q: When a new sidewalk is built, who decides where it is going to be built?Â
A: Plans need to be approved by DMD and DCE for location, width, material, and overall site plan approval.Â But I think you may also mean who has a say in where and when and which projects are done.Â A good explanation to this is here: http://www.indy.gov/eGov/City/DPW/RebuildIndy/Pages/RebuildIndy-Project-Selection.aspx
Q: If there are homes there, how are owners affected by new sidewalks being constructed?Â
A: Sidewalk installation does cause some minor inconvenience to property owners while the ground is being prepared, cuts across driveways are ongoing, sidewalk is being poor and cured and final approaches are constructed for the new sidewalk across residentsâ€™ drives, there will always be construction material and equipment in front of homes during periods of construction and there is often times planting of grass and finished grading that occurs once construction has been completed.
Q: I dug even further and asked a â€œwhat if?â€ type of question. What if a street or neighborhood wants to build new sidewalks in their neighborhood, but the city says no? How can they take action to make new sidewalks a reality?Â
A: We encourage residents to contact their City/County Councillor for advice and to establish a need within the neighborhood, send emails to MAC requesting addition of sidewalks in the neighborhood, and/or form a group of residents to petition the city to look at installing sidewalks in their neighborhood.
I would personally like to see better attention paid to our secondary streets that lack sidewalks. There are a number of neighborhoods on the east side, Irvington springs to mind that have notably goodÂ reputations as a place to live in the cityÂ yet have few sidewalks. My own neighborhood, Keystone Monon, has only a few and most of them around School #91. I’ve even spent a lot of time complaining about the quality of the design and construction (52nd Street) as well, which could use a bump. However, RebuildIndy seems to be a step in the right direction towards at least creating a plan to build new sidewalks and repair existing ones.