Atlanta’s elected officials express strong support for sidewalk maintenance. Yet they’ve done little to back their words with the funding needed to address the city’s enormous backlog of broken sidewalks.
It also estimated the cost of annual sidewalk and ramp deterioration at $15 million. Seven years have passed, so by now, the cost may exceed $300 million.
Renew Atlanta: One step forward; three steps back
In 2015 voters approved infrastructure bonds that enable Atlanta to invest $188 million to repair bridges, roads, traffic signals and sidewalks.
Through the end of 2014, the project list allocated $40 million to sidewalk repairs and $35 million to install or repair curb ramps.We applaud Atlanta officials and voters for recognizing the importance of routine infrastructure maintenance.
Since then, the City repeatedly stripped sidewalk funding from the program.
- In early 2015, the money for sidewalks vanished – and the money for curb ramps dropped to $5 million.
- In 2017, Public Works reneged on its promise to repair broken sidewalks on all streets that are resurfaced as part of the Renew Atlanta program.
- Meanwhile, city officials placed several Complete Streets projects on the back burner and diverted $2 million of Renew Atlanta funds to help pay for a glamorous, but ill-informed bridge over Northside Drive.
Transparency is not a strong suit, especially when it comes to money.
In 2015 the City Council approved 14-O-1361, which required the Department of Public Works to “update City Council on a quarterly basis as to all sidewalk repairs conducted by location, responsible party, and dollar amount of each repair.”
That never happened, so PEDS is working diligently to pull sidewalk spending out of the shadows.
Repair projects may be even rarer than you think.
Documents we received from Public Works recently enabled us to map sidewalk projects by zip code and type.
To our dismay, only 184 projects were completed during the past four years. Maps confirm that sidewalk projects are concentrated in just a handful of zip codes.
That’s not all. Many projects that Public Works had itemized as sidewalk projects were actually investments in driveway aprons or granite curbs.
Don’t let the shading confuse you. In zip codes with the palest shade of green, only one project was completed during 2014-2017. In zip codes with the slightly darker shade, two to six projects were completed during the four-year period. Put briefly: pathetic!
We assume that most of these projects were initiated and paid for by abutting property owners. The Open Records request we sent in October includes detailed questions about funding sources, including how much money from the general fund has been allocated to sidewalk year during each fiscal year. Six weeks have passed, and we’re still waiting to receive copies of correspondence and other documents that may confirm this.
After the Atlanta City Council convenes in January, we’ll provide a report at a Transportation Committee meeting. Several the newly elected council members consider sidewalk maintenance a high priority, which makes us confident the reports will help make change happen.
We ‘ll keep you posted on our progress and let you know when your voice will make a difference.