How does Atlanta repair its sidewalks? City tasked with devising plan

A worker does maintenance on a sidewalk along Auburn Avenue in Atlanta. (BOB ANDRES / ROBERT.ANDRES@AJC.COM)

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

Two departments in Atlanta City Hall are tasked with creating a plan that could impact neighborhoods across the city in terms of how pedestrian-friendly they are.

The Atlanta City Council last week passed a measure directing the Atlanta Department of Transportation and the Office of Innovation Delivery and Performance to come up with a plan for how to fund hundreds of millions of dollars in sidewalk repairs and prioritize which streets need them most.

“As a city, we don’t do the best job maintaining our infrastructure whether it’s roads, bridges, sidewalks,” said Councilman Amir Farokhi, who sponsored the legislation.

Farokhi said the plan will provide a road map for repairing sidewalks over the next 10 to 20 years, determining which streets might need new sidewalks, and finding funding sources for those improvements.

The councilman estimated the repair backlog totals about $800 million, which he said is normal for big cities. That number doesn’t include ongoing sidewalk maintenance costs.

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The measure tasks the Department of Transportation and the Office of Innovation Delivery and Performance with presenting options to the council in six months.

It’s a tall order, but “we need to do it,” Farokhi said, “and it’s going to take some pushing from residents and from the council to make sure that we follow through on delivering the basics.”

The city currently has several mechanisms for funding sidewalk fixes, including $69 million from sales taxes and a small portion of a bond program.

The Atlanta Department of Transportation also has a program to do sidewalk maintenance when funding “is identified and available,” the resolution states.

Farokhi, whose district includes Old Fourth Ward, Midtown, Downtown and Inman Park, said the new funding sources to address the backlog could include bonds or state or federal dollars. Ultimately, he hopes it leads to a safer and more equitable sidewalk network in Atlanta.

“It’s really hard to be ambitious and to look ahead if you’re tripping on the sidewalk,” he said.