We use sidewalks every day but do not think too much about them until we trip over an uneven part or are cited by the codes department to fix our broken sidewalk.
Generally, it is the city through its power of zoning that decides when a sidewalk is needed. Then the owner of the adjacent property or developer is responsible for its installation and upkeep. If the sidewalk is not properly maintained, the city can impose fines.
As a result, we have a situation where property owners are unhappy with the uneven burden of maintaining sidewalks.
In many places, sidewalks are unavailable or unsafe. Sometimes a sidewalk goes halfway up a block and abruptly ends. When the sidewalk is only on one side of the street, the property owner is responsible for its maintenance while those on the other side are not. Corner houses have twice the sidewalk to maintain.
We have been fortunate to have had many projects of street upgrades where the sidewalk was replaced at no cost to the property owner. Examples of this are the Pathway to Health and the East End project by Lycoming College.
There may be further funding opportunities if the government decides to invest in our crumbling infrastructure. The city’s plan to upgrade the sidewalks which involved funding by the property owners adjacent to the sidewalks stalled when opposition from landlords who did not want to absorb the cost put the plan on hold, I believe. So most unsafe sidewalks remain unrepaired.
An idea gaining some traction is for the city to take over the cost of installing and repairing sidewalks. It would lead to a more equitable funding by relieving property owners who have sidewalks in front of their property of the expense of maintaining their sidewalks in exchange for slightly higher property taxes for everyone. We do not ask property owners to fund the cost of maintaining the street in front of their property.
Why should we do that for sidewalks? They also serve everyone.
We are endeavoring to be a city that is more friendly to people who walk, ride bicycles or are disabled. It is a good time to look at this now.
Submitted via Virtual Newsroom