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Staff: City is $16M short of sidewalk funding needs

Memo claims more funding is needed to meet city climate action and equity goals.

A patched and crumbling sidewalk in Evanston.

Evanston’s public works director says the city needs nearly $16 million to repair all its deteriorated sidewalks and close gaps in the sidewalk network.

In a memo prepared for this afternoon’s Administration and Public Works Committee meeting, Dave Stoneback says the city’s existing sidewalk repair program — in which property owners are asked to pick up half the cost — isn’t keeping up with repair needs.

And, he says, the city has no program to fill gaps in the sidewalk system.

He says that assuming a 60-year life span for a sidewalk and an estimated $11.50 per square foot cost of replacement, fixing all currently deteriorated sidewalks would cost $6 million.

And, with 280 miles of existing sidewalks, the city would have to spend an additional $1.6 million annually to keep up with future repair needs.

The city now spends about $180,000 on sidewalk repairs, Stoneback says, while residents kick in another $70,000 under a program in which residents can get their sidewalks replaced if they pay half the cost.

To fill in the estimated 15 miles of sidewalk gaps, at an estimated cost of $23 per square foot would cost about $9.7 million, Stoneback says.

Stoneback says residents in more affluent areas of the city are more likely to volunteer to pay into in the sidewalk replacement program, so the program, which has been in place for at least four decades, has tended to lead to the accumulation of more deteriorated sidewalks in less affluent areas.

Gaps in the sidewalk network occur most frequently in westerly sections of the city which were among the last to be developed with housing.

The memo says one barrier to expanding the sidewalk network is that in many areas homeowners have incorporated the city right-of-way into their front yards and would resist having the yard “cut in half” by a sidewalk.

Stoneback suggests that the City Council consider making sidewalk repairs mandatory and provide financial support for repairs for low-income residents.

He suggest the Council should add $2 million a year to the sidewalk repair program for the next three years and increase the annual repair budget from $150,000 to $350,000.

He argues that the proposed changes are necessary for the city to comply with its Climate Action and Resilience Plan and equity goals.

The sidewalk, he says, is a community asset that “allows all members of the community, regardless of economic status of physical ability to safely travel between different locations.”

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