For years, Atlanta residents have complained about decaying sidewalks, but to no avail. As a result, the city’s over 2500 miles of sidewalks now include an estimated 600 miles in serious need of repair. While the budget for sidewalk repair has increased over the past two years, there is a huge backlog of repair work. It is estimated that the city needs $150 million to repair the sidewalks. The injuries resulting from years of neglect are producing lawsuits costing Atlanta taxpayers millions of dollars in legal claims.
In 2008, a visually impaired student tripped and fell on the sidewalk near his elementary school, suffering serious injuries. His family had reportedly complained for years about the damaged sidewalk, but it was never fixed. The family was awarded $3 million as a result. More recently, a woman jogging on a trail in Chastain Park tripped and fell onto broken pavement, fracturing her hip. The victim now has over $100,000 in medical bills, and has filed a claim against the city of Atlanta.
One reason sidewalks are not being repaired fast enough is that city ordinances make Atlanta homeowners legally responsible for repairing sidewalks adjacent to their property. Most residents cannot afford the cost (estimated at $500 – $5,000) to repave their sidewalks, creating hazards for pedestrians. And many property owners are not even aware that they are responsible for their sidewalks. Advocates for pedestrians argue that that it would be more fair – and more cost effective – if the city had the responsibility for all sidewalk repairs.
Atlanta has built a trust fund of up to $1.5 million to help residents fund repairs, and despite the failure of a transportation referendum that would have allotted funds towards repair, some progress has been made. But it is not enough to fix every sidewalk. Recently, a professor at Georgia Tech was awarded a grant to inventory the condition of every sidewalk in the city. Civil Engineering professor Randall L. Guensler is developing a sidewalk quality index to document the sidewalk conditions and prioritize sidewalk repairs. A database of sidewalk conditions might help convert the repair process from a piecemeal to a more systematic one.
In the meantime, Atlanta’s pedestrians should not have to risk their safety walking on the city’s sidewalks. If the city of Atlanta’s sidewalk negligence has left you or a loved one injured, call attorney Bruce Hagen to file a claim against the city.