U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
Table 2 lists the forty-six agencies that were contacted for this report. The agency contact list was compiled using the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center's Walk Friendly Communities program list, responses to the NCHRP 07-17: Pedestrian and Bicycle Data Collection and Prioritization Along Existing Roads online survey conducted by a Research Team led by Toole Design Groupand througha random selection process utilizing a 2010 U.S. Census Bureau place names. In addition, several communities contacted the Research Team requesting to participate in the study.
The purpose of agency discussions was to further develop an understanding of facility maintenance programs and practices throughout the United States. Each agency was asked the questions that are listed in this section. Questions are grouped under general topic headings and accompanied by a discussion of findings. It was expected that agency discussions would reveal exemplary programs and practices, e.g. programs and practices that are innovative and/or achieving success in terms of responding to maintenance needs. Discussion of exemplary programs and practices is included in Chapter 2 of this report.
Table 2: Communities Participating in Discussions
|2||Ann Arbor, MI||112,852||Midwest|
|8||Camp Verde, AZ||10,610||West|
|12||Coeur d'Alene, ID||43,805||West|
|19||Fort Worth, TX||727,575||West|
|21||Hill City, KS||1,308||Midwest|
|26||Lee's Summit, MO||86,556||Midwest|
|36||Rancho Cordova, CA||64,960||West|
|42||State of Alaska||710,231||West|
|43||State of Florida||18,900,773||South|
|44||State of West Virginia||1,859,815||South|
|45||Traverse City, MI||14,674||Midwest|
|48||Virginia Beach, VA||439,122||East|
All agencies that were contacted maintain pedestrian facilities and all but a few agencies have formal policies that guide how maintenance is performed. It is typical for public works departments, or specific divisions within public works, e.g. streets division, to be responsible for maintaining pedestrian facilities. Numerous agencies indicated that property owners abutting sidewalks are responsible for maintaining those sidewalks, especially with respect to winter maintenance. Business Improvement Districts (and other similar organizations) and homeowners associations were also commonly mentioned by agencies as other entities that are responsible for sidewalk maintenance. Maintenance of shared use paths is typically performed by parks and recreation departments or is a shared responsibility with public works or street maintenance departments, particularly for shared use paths within street right-of-ways. Non-profit organizations, regional recreational districts and homeowners associations were also mentioned, although less commonly, as entities responsible for shared use path maintenance.
The majority of agencies that were contacted do not have dedicated staff for the maintenance of pedestrian facilities. Those agencies that do have dedicated staff are deploying such staff for sidewalk repair/replacement, curb ramp repair/replacement, crosswalk maintenance, pedestrian signal maintenance, vegetation management, shared use path maintenance and inspection activities. Much more common among agencies is deployment of general street maintenance staff for a wide range of maintenance activities within the street right of way, including pedestrian facilities. Maintenance staffing levels vary widely and correlate with the size of the community.
Most agencies that were contacted have an annual budget for pedestrian facility maintenance, but were not able to provide a precise breakdown of how these budgets are programmatically allocated. In many cases, it was difficult for communities to report dollar amounts because roadway crews or park crews were performing maintenance as an incidental part of other maintenance duties. For those reporting annual budgets dedicated to pedestrian facility maintenance, they vary widely from $28,000 to $8 million. Pedestrian facility maintenance funding levels are proportional to the size of the community, with some exceptions. Annual budgets for pedestrian facility maintenance as a percentage of overall transportation facility maintenance also vary widely from less than 1% to 25% among agencies that were able to provide this information.
Sources of funding for pedestrian facility maintenance include state gas tax and other state aid funds, sales tax, special assessments, bonds, voter-approved levies, general fund (supported by property tax), utility fees, grants (SRTS, CDBG, CMAQ, ARRA) and funds established from special sources such as red light cameras and vehicle license fees. Funds most often come out of a city's general fund. Often sidewalk replacement programs are made part of Capital Improvement Programs. In the case of sidewalk repair/replacement at least half of the agencies contacted have a mechanism to assess property owners, however only about half these agencies actively employ it. Among those agencies that do actively assess property owners for sidewalk repair and/or replacement, property owners are typically required to pay 100% or 50% of the costs. Several agencies indicated that jurisdictions will pay for 100% of repair costs if sidewalk damage is due to trees planted within public right-of-way or other infrastructure-related damage. Often adjustments are made for property owners located on corners. The few innovative financing mechanisms mentioned by agencies include targeted levy, tax incremental financing districts and public-private partnerships.
The majority of communities surveyed comply with ADA guidelines on new projects and have state law or local ordinances that govern the maintenance and clearing of sidewalks. Adjacent property owners, city public works and parks departments and business associations most often share responsibility for these activities.
It is more common for public works departments rather than adjacent property owners to fund and perform repairs of sidewalks. The completion of these repairs is most often in response to complaints as opposed to coordinated programs. Even though more communities have ordinances that place the responsibility for sidewalk maintenance on the adjacent property owner, shared and unclear responsibility, weak enforcement mechanisms, high costs and liability concerns lead to many jurisdictions to perform sidewalk repairs and replacement. Many of the agencies reported that they will allow adjacent property owners to replace sidewalks that have been identified for replacement. If the sidewalks are not replaced by a certain date, the agencies will include the work as part of a contract and charge the adjacent property owners the cost of the replacement.
Figure 8: Replacement of curb ramps
Jurisdictions are slightly more likely to perform full sidewalk replacement rather than invest in short term fixes. If short-term fixes are done before a segment can be replaced, the common techniques are grinding, patching and wedging. It is not uncommon for agencies to have both repair and replacement programs working together; one to respond to immediate reported problems, and the other to operate as a longer term replacement program rotating through a community zone by zone.
In many jurisdictions where sidewalk repair budgets are limited, public works departments are targeting parts of the sidewalk network that are the most damaged, thus full replacement is often the only option available given the condition of the sidewalks. Most jurisdictions working under this model do not have dedicated staff, but deploy work crews seasonally to complete sidewalk repairs. These communities are also much less likely to have a property assessment policy, allowing them to move quickly to replace sidewalks.
In other jurisdictions, clear responsibility rests on the adjacent property owners who are responsible for funding and /or performing all maintenance of the sidewalk adjacent to their property. Under this model, sidewalk repair may be triggered by notice from the jurisdiction of non-compliant conditions or construction activities on the property. Public works departments are only responsible for curb ramps and sidewalk repairs adjacent to public lands and facilities. In some cases, the jurisdiction will perform short-term repairs with the understanding that the adjacent property owner will then be responsible for more long-term solutions.
Other entities may be responsible for sidewalk repairs. It is common for downtown commercial districts to form Local Improvement Districts or Special Improvement Districts to fund and complete sidewalk repairs using contractors. Business Improvement Districts, which commonly perform day-to-day maintenance such as sweeping and snow removal, will, in some cases, conduct repairs of sidewalks.
Inspection and inventory enables communities to identify priorities for sidewalk repair and replacement. Communities identify sidewalk repair needs by the intake of complaints from citizens, through follow-up and routine inspections, and by conducting inventories. There are two common strategies for inspection: inspection by zone and case-by-case inspection. With zone inspection, a portion of a jurisdiction is inspected annually. Case-by-case inspection occurs in response to a complaint or claim or preceding a capital or scheduled project. Comprehensive community-wide sidewalk inventories are expensive and not common. Some larger communities and communities with universities are making use of this tool especially as a way to complete or update ADA transition plans.
In response to a rather specific question about tripping hazards, many communities indicated that they are following ADA standards (¼ inch to ½ inch) and have reduced their threshold accordingly. Nevertheless, a wide range of thresholds were still reported by communities.
For shared use pathways, the responsibility of path repairs most often falls under the jurisdiction of the parks department. In some instances, public works departments will assist with pavement maintenance of paths. It is uncommon that paths be maintained within the same program as sidewalks. Several communities acknowledged that they pay closer attention to maintenance standards used for paths than sidewalks because of higher usage on paths and the tendency for more problems to be reported. It is common for volunteer groups to assist with path maintenance needs.
It is common practice that private property owners are responsible for removing snow and ice from the sidewalk that abuts their property and that public agencies such as state and local jurisdictions, public works and parks departments are responsible for sidewalks adjacent to public lands. Of the 47 communities contacted 32 had formal policies or laws for snow and ice removal. Many of the communities in California and the Southeast U.S. indicated it was a senseless question for them since they have no snow or ice. The majority of the communities that had formal laws or policies have shared snow removal policies performed by the local government, public institutions and private property owners. This is comparable to a study conducted by the Salt Institute, which found that 83 percent of highway agencies had policies requiring property owners to remove snow from adjacent sidewalks.1
Although shared responsibility for snow removal is common practice, the success of snow removal to the extent of compliance with the ADA is varied. Of the communities surveyed with formal shared snow removal policies the majority (83%) stated that the current practice of adjacent property owners removing snow and ice was a successful strategy. However, the measure of success was not defined. Challenges in winter maintenance arise with vacant properties or rental properties. In addition, elderly or disabled residents may have mobility limitations that make it difficult for them to remove snow. The presence of clear policy that is conveyed through education, inspection and enforcement is important to a successful snow and ice removal program.
Other snow removal strategies include the use of contractors, the formation of Local Improvement Districts (LIDs) or Special Improvement Districts (SIDs) most common in commercial districts and developments to fund and perform maintenance duties including snow removal. In some instances, local jurisdictions are responsible for all snow and ice removal. The state of New Hampshire, by state law, requires all local jurisdictions – not adjacent property owners - to maintain all roadways and sidewalks including snow and ice removal. In southern states where snow events are light and/or infrequent, it is common that a “melt strategy” is used in place of a formal snow removal policy. Communities with melt strategies generally do not expect adjacent property owners to clear sidewalks except in business districts.
Municipal ordinances most often determine the conditions and responsibilities associated with snow and ice removal from sidewalks. It is common that the ordinance specify the timeframe, responsible party, desirable conditions, enforcement mechanism and penalties associated with non-compliance.
The timeframe required for snow removal range from 2 to 72 hours after a snowfall. Some municipalities require snow and ice to be removed or treated by a specific time such as by 9am of the morning following a snow event. In some instances, cities will specify different requirements for different days such as Sunday when the timeframe is relaxed or have different requirements for high pedestrian traffic areas. The majority of municipalities with snow removal timeframes require snow to be removed from sidewalks within 24 hours after a snow event.
In the majority of jurisdictions, snow removal is a shared responsibility that may involve the adjacent property owner, renter, ground floor occupant, municipality or a specified contractor. Few jurisdictions have municipal crews that manage all of the snow removal from streets and sidewalks.
Enforcing snow removal from sidewalks is critical to a successful snow removal program in minimizing risk and legal exposure. Of the communities contacted with laws governing sidewalk winter maintenance by adjacent property owners, 46 percent did enforce snow removal laws. Of those communities, 83 percent felt that snow removal was done successfully in their community. Of communities that have ordinances in place but do not enforce snow removal, 40 percent felt that the program was successful.
Many communities with snow removal ordinances and active enforcement of the ordinance issue penalties to property owners who do not meet the requirements of the ordinance. Of the communities surveyed that do enforce their snow removal policy, about 75 percent issued fines to property owners who did not clear snow within the requirements of the ordinance. Fines range from $1 to several hundred dollars depending on the length of time the violation remains. A few communities clear snow and charge the property owner for the work in addition to imposing a fine. A few other jurisdictions issue warnings, but do not fine. In some cases municipalities cleared snow from sidewalks where adjacent property owners had failed to do so. Of those communities, some charged the adjacent property owner or fined them for negligence.
In some cases it was found that maintenance agreements are used to clarify roles and responsibilities in the removal of snow and ice. This may include a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that specifically defines the roles and responsibilities of different parties such as between a Business or Neighborhood Association and a municipality. In some instances where multiple agencies or departments must coordinate snow removal efforts, such as at state and local roadway interchanges, shared use paths through parklands or at transit stops, a cooperative or interagency agreement is in place. Agencies that have such agreements in place indicated having success with snow removal operations.
Mechanical snow removal from sidewalks is performed using a variety of equipment such as shovels, blowers, small tractors, bobcats, ATVs, etc. depending on the equipment budget, the severity of the snow event, the depth of snow and space constraints. Due to the constraints of the pedestrian zone a variety of tools may be necessary in order to properly clear sidewalks, curb ramps, medians and intersections.
In the majority of communities funding for snow removal from sidewalks and other pedestrian facilities (where the jurisdiction has established responsibility) comes from the general fund. Some communities have established snow and ice removal budgets for roadways, which includes pedestrian facilities, and is also typically drawn from their general fund.
In general, there is confusion about shared winter-maintenance practices and who has liability. The development of a snow removal policy that clearly defines roles and responsibilities helps to mitigate legal risk.
Trimming vegetation along sidewalks is not a high priority or high-effort activity for most jurisdictions. Agencies typically engage in vegetation management when vegetation is blocking sightlines to signals, signs or crosswalks. Adjacent property owners are most often responsible for the management of vegetation on their property that may impact the pedestrian zone. As shown in Figure 9, the majority of communities contacted does not perform routine inspection along sidewalks for vegetation overgrowth issues, but rather respond to complaints. In general, this is viewed as a successful practice that requires little effort on the part of the jurisdiction. However, for management of vegetation in the right of way there is more active inspection and/or management by the jurisdiction.
Figure 9: Vegetation trimming
Figure 10: Vegetation trimming by property owners
Most communities are proactive about debris and leaf removal. Street sweeping, seasonal leaf collection and garbage pick-up are common activities for jurisdictions. Sidewalk sweeping is not as common although one jurisdiction sweeps all city sidewalks in the spring. The amount of effort in leaf collection varies depending on the region and program. This ranges from communities with no debris removal program (including garbage) to weekly yard waste pick-up. Of the communities contacted most felt that property owners were successful in keeping sidewalk clear of debris.
Thermoplastic is the crosswalk marking material most favored by those communities that were contacted. Paint is also frequently used, particularly on existing roads or where there is an immediate need. Epoxy was also mentioned by a number of communities. Thermoplastic and epoxy markings are used most often on repaving projects (Figure 11). The communities that use paint markings typically use city crews and equipment to do the work, while installation of thermoplastic and epoxy markings is typically contracted out. At least one community mentioned the use of cold plastic in-lays for federal projects. Several communities mentioned using recessed thermoplastic to avoid plow damage and another community mentioned using this marking technique where there are a high number of turning movements, particularly by large vehicles.
Only a few communities mentioned that they have had slip hazard issues related to crosswalk markings. Several strategies were mentioned for reducing slip hazards associated with thermoplastic. One community mentioned using the British Pendulum method to determine appropriate friction coefficient to avoid slip hazards. The same community mentioned that having the right conditions for the thermoplastic curing process was an important factor for avoiding slippery markings. It was noted by several communities that newer thermoplastic mixtures contain sand or other coarse materials for reducing slip hazards. Bricks and stamped concrete were noted by at least two communities as creating hazards for bicyclists.
Figure 11: Crosswalk marking materials
When asked what special treatments or strategies are used for maintaining crosswalks, the majority of communities indicated that they did not have any special techniques for reducing maintenance. Some notable exceptions include spraying streets with primer to reduce salt damage, spacing crosswalk bars so they are generally out of tire path, using pre-form thermoplastic in high-traffic areas, and using different types of markings for different types of roadway surfaces, e.g. thermoplastic on concrete and polyurethane on asphalt.
Street lighting is gener ally managed by local jurisdictions (Figure 12). It is also common for municipalities to share lighting maintenance responsibilities in their jurisdiction with private utilities.
Figure 12: Maintenance of lighting
Most communities that were contacted indicated that they have either switched out all their signals for LED countdown signals or are in the process of doing so. Newer LED lights are highly rated by communities in terms of durability. No special techniques were mentioned for maintaining pedestrian signals. Pushbuttons were the most problematic features of pedestrian signals. Several communities mentioned that they have issues with pedestrian pushbuttons being stuck. Some mentioned that tampering with pushbuttons was more frequent near schools.
The majority of contacted agencies employ some kind of methodology to prioritize pedestrian facility maintenance. The most common factors used in prioritization are tripping hazard, areas with high levels of pedestrian activity (community centers, business districts and transit stops were commonly mentioned), school access, number of complaints, ADA compliance and safety (Figure 13). It is common for agencies to inventory sidewalk maintenance needs and update these inventories through periodic inspection and on a rotating basis. As a means to balance maintenance programs, particularly sidewalk maintenance, agencies may split the city into geographic zones or neighborhoods and inspect each zone, and do required maintenance, every five years.
Figure 13: Factors to prioritize pedestrian facility maintenance
Over half of the agencies contacted use performance measures or benchmarks to judge how well they are addressing pedestrian facility maintenance needs. Typical measures are units of facilities (e.g. linear feet of sidewalk, number of curb ramps) replaced/repaired, number of complaints resolved and number of claims per year (Figure 14). Only a quarter of agencies indicated that they have specific pedestrian safety benchmarks in place (Figure 15). Several agencies mentioned specific software applications that are used to track complaints, inspections and work performed.
Figure 14: Performance measures
Figure 15: Pedestrian safety benchmarks
Almost all contacted agencies have some kind of mechanism for citizens to report maintenance issues whether it is a telephone hotline, email address or online form that is accessed on the city's website (Figure 16). A smaller number of agencies indicated having sophisticated applications that log and track citizen requests/complaints. Other reporting mechanisms mentioned include neighborhood councils, alders and agency-specific Facebook pages.
Figure 16: Citizen involvement in identifying pedestrian maintenance problems
Only a few agencies indicated that they work directly with outside organizations such as Homeowners Associations, Business Improvement Districts, merchant organization, neighborhood associations or large institutions (e.g. hospitals of universities) to disseminate information about pedestrian facility maintenance. Several agencies indicated using local publications to notify the public and provide information, particularly regarding snow and ice removal.
These three questions were perhaps the most difficult ones for discussion participants to answer. Most of the agency representatives participating in the discussions were from public works or streets departments and often were unaware of claims against their jurisdictions or lawsuits that were initiated or settled. Most communities were able to answer the question about liability, but the results were mixed. About half of the respondents placed liability for mishaps on property owners and half felt it was their responsibility. Several people were able to give examples or cite supporting laws, but many people were uncertain about their responses and often said it was a shared liability. Some of the responses seemed inconsistent with earlier responses in which they stated they had complete or overall responsibility for the maintenance of pedestrian facilities.
Most jurisdictions were either unaware of lawsuits related to mishaps and maintenance practices or stated that their community was not involved in any lawsuits. Likewise, there was a lack of knowledge of claims being filed against their community. However, many of the departments represented in the discussions that were notified from their attorneys that a claim was filed resulted in quick action for repairs or even sidewalk replacement. A handful of communities knew how many claims per year were made and it ranged from a few to 80.
1"Extending Beyond the Curb: Winter Maintenance Liability." Public Works. 2001. HighBeam Research. Accessed January 23, 2013. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-78178335.html.