The city wants to fix your crumbling sidewalks – sort of

Filed under: Hazlehurst |

Here’s a recent press release from the city touting its concrete cost-sharing program. Particularly interesting parts of the presser are italicized (although you may argue that no part of such a press release could conceivably be very interesting).

 “The City of Colorado Springs, with funding from the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation

Authority (PPRTA) and the City General Fund, will continue the 50/50 cost-sharing program to repair/replace concrete sidewalks and curb and gutter adjacent to private property in 2013. Fifty percent of the cost is paid for by the City, while the property owner pays the other half. Concrete must be rated Priority 1 or 2 (explained further in release).


Concrete repairs to sidewalks and curb gutter adjacent to private property are ultimately the responsibility and liability of the adjacent property owner; however, the City has allocated funding to assist with these repairs. Currently there is an approximately 16-year backlog of citizen requests for concrete repair. The 50/50 cost-sharing program is designed to allow citizens to get Priority 1 and 2 areas addressed sooner and allow the City to address more needs with available funding.


“In 2012, the City spent $107,500 in PPRTA funding and repaired concrete at 60 residences. For 2013, $115,000 in PPRTA funding plus $200,000 from the City General Fund has been allocated to the 50/50 Cost Share program.  The additional General Fund dollars are part of the Mayor’s 2013 breakthrough strategy to increase road and stormwater maintenance.


“Repair needs must meet Priority 1 or 2 levels using objective criteria established under the concrete repair program.

Priority 2 areas are those that meet at least one of these conditions:

  • 75 to 100 percent of the curb head or sidewalk is chipped or broken
  • Concrete has settled at least 2 inches
  • 50% or more of the surface has spalled (top ½ to 1 inch has worn away, leaving a rough surface)

“Priority 1 areas meet at least one of the Priority 2 conditions AND at least one of these conditions:

  • Verified accident or claim for injury caused by damage
  • Citizen with a disability whose access is impeded due to damage
  • 250 yard proximity to hospital, school, senior center or bus stop

“Citizens interested in participating should call 385-5411 to schedule an inspection/rating session with a City/PPRTA inspector. Here are some basic cost estimates for concrete work:

  • Remove damaged curb and gutter    $5.50 per linear foot
  • Install curb and gutter                         $14.25 per linear foot
  • Remove damaged sidewalk               $2.25 per square foot
  • Install sidewalk                                    $2.90 per square foot”


How many linear feet of curb, gutter and sidewalk can be replaced with $315,000 from the city, and PPRTA, plus another $315,000 from property owners? Assuming three-foot sidewalks, $630,000 would pay for 17,898 linear feet of curb, gutter and sidewalk – sounds good!  Unfortunately, that’s a tiny percentage of  the sidewalk mileage within the city, so it’s hard to describe the program as a “breakthrough strategy.”

 And that brings up another question – why should property owners be responsible for sidewalk repairs, much less curb & gutter? Streets and sidewalks are part of the city’s transportation and mobility network, while curbs and gutters are essential components of stormwater drainage infrastructure. If we don’t have to maintain the street in front of our property, why should we pay to repair curbs, gutters, and sidewalks?

The question becomes even more interesting when you consider that much of the Old Broadmoor neighborhood lacks curbs, gutters and sidewalks.  Absent sidewalks, you’ll never be on the hook for repairing them. The city won’t fine you for failing to shovel the snow, and random pedestrians can’t sue you if they trip and fall.

 Theoretically, the city should just stick to its guns and require property owners to fix their sidewalks. Practically, such a policy wouldn’t work.

That’s because most of the crumbling concrete is located in older, poorer neighborhoods where residents can barely afford their mortgage payments, let alone fork over a couple of thousand bucks to repair public amenities that happen to be located in front of their houses.

In a fairer, more equitable world the city would pay for and maintain all of the curbs, gutters, and sidewalks in the city – but in such a “fair and equitable” world we’d pay much higher property taxes.

So the Mayor’s “breakthrough strategy” is, like most strategies for municipal governance, fragmented, inadequate and incomplete – but it’s better than last year’s, and much better than nothing at all.

 It’s unfair, but that’s life – and I can’t complain. The sidewalks, curbs and gutters in front of my crumbling Westside Victorian are in comparatively good shape.  Global warming and years of drought have pretty much ended my snow shoveling obligation, and it’s good to live in a walkable, lively neighborhood.  I don’t know how my dogs would pass their time, absent pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders and dog walkers to woof at, and I’m glad that I don’t have to stumble along dirt paths to get to the bars, shops and restaurants of Old Colorado City.

So rather than envying the rich and powerful denizens of the Broadmoor, I’m sorry for them.

 Poor dogs, stuck behind stone walls with no one to woof at! Poor residents, forced to trudge through rattlesnake-infested remnants of the original prairie to reach the Golden Bee!  When you tire of your misery, come to the Westside and I’ll buy you a shot at T & B’s.  And bring your dogs – just tie ‘em up out front and let ‘em woof…