City takes over responsibility for curb, gutter and sidewalks

Filed under: Opinion |

For several decades, the City Code made it the responsibility of property owners to maintain, repair and reconstruct broken sidewalks, curbs and gutters abutting their property.

The goal was to have the property owners absorb these costs, rather than placing the burden on the city’s general fund. This has helped to minimize property tax levels over the years. However, this program is very difficult to enforce, and became even more challenging as the number of incidents of hazardous or defective curbs, gutters and sidewalks increased with the aging infrastructure throughout the city.

City inspectors also encountered increasing reluctance of property owners to spend money on a repair that they viewed as the city’s responsibility, regardless of the City Code requirement.

The Citizens’ Transportation Advisory Board (CTAB) advised city staff to include curbs and gutters as part of the street maintenance program. The board also recommended that sidewalks be included because of their vital role in pedestrian traffic.

These recommendations were brought to City Council and incorporated into the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority ballot question in November 2004. With the passage of the 1 percent PPRTA sales tax, the city now has funding to include sidewalk, curb and gutter maintenance in its street maintenance budget with proposed funding of approximately $4 million annually.

With this new funding in place, City Council approved City Code revisions on March 22 which eliminated adjacent property owner responsibility for curb, gutter and sidewalk repairs. However, property owners are still responsible for cleaning their sidewalks, and for the construction of new curbs, gutters and sidewalks where none previously existed.

The city will focus its efforts on repairing deteriorated public curbs, gutters and sidewalks in conjunction with the city’s annual street resurfacing program. Repairing the concrete curbs and gutters ahead of asphalt resurfacing will significantly reduce the potential for water to get under the pavement section, a leading cause of deterioration of the pavement. This will extend the life expectancy of our roads and reduce the potential for pothole creation.

A portion of this funding will also be reserved for other high priority locations involving public safety, such as damaged sidewalks in key pedestrian corridors near schools and hospitals.

Making the list

The city is developing a list of concrete repair needs, based on its own inspections as well as input from the public. Repair locations will be prioritized, and the most serious problems will be fixed as the PPRTA funds become available and contractors are mobilized to do the work.

It is expected that more requests will be received than can be managed in the first year of this program, so public understanding that many repair requests may not receive an immediate response is crucial. Citizens who wish to report damaged concrete curbs, gutters and sidewalks can submit requests to the City Engineering Division of the Public Works Department. Requests can be phoned in to 385-5918, or e-mailed to CityEngineering@springsgov.com.

Another great community investment made possible with RTA funds will be approximately $1 million annually for pedestrian ramps. City-wide pedestrian ramp needs are estimated at over $50 million. The infusion of annual PPRTA funds will provide much-needed resources to install new or replacement pedestrian ramps to meet ADA requirements and the needs of pedestrians.

The funds will be used for public right-of-way locations and city-owned property (municipal operations). Some funding will be reserved for ramp construction or repair in existing developed areas, with priority given to high-use pedestrian areas such as hospitals/medical facilities, public buildings/schools, elderly housing areas and bus stops.

Again, citizens can submit requests for consideration to 385-5918, or e-mail to CityEngineering@springsgov.com.

Lorne Kramer is city manager of Colorado Springs.