Coronavirus could set sidewalk repair program even further behind schedule

Posted at 6:39 PM, May 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 22:19:53-04

DENVER -- Back in August of 2018, the city started inspections with homeowners to foot the bill on sidewalk repairs. But in the 22 months of the program, inspectors have only looked at just half of one of Denver's 78 neighborhoods.

"So just doing a simple math we have 78 neighborhoods in the city. We’ve done half of my neighborhood in a year and-a-half and so we’re looking at 200 years (for completion) at this rate,” City Council member Chris Hinds said.

Hinds said he's asked for more inspectors but was denied.

“It is my understanding we only have one sidewalk repair inspector right now,” he said.

Back in January, Denver7 asked the Department of Transportation and Interior if that caused delays.

“We're working with what we had. This is how fast we're going with this,” DOTI’s Nancy Kuhn responded.

According to DOTI, they've done just over 1,100 inspections, which is about about 900 homes, with 75% of them requiring repairs. But with COVID-19, this process could slow down a whole lot more.

“We recognize that there are a lot of people that just recently became unemployed just in the last two months, and so that puts us in a tough position of putting bills for hundreds, or maybe thousands, of sidewalk repair on people's doors,” Hinds added.

Add a massive budget shortfall for the city and social distancing requirements, and the situation just gets tougher. Which is why Hinds offered a temporary solution: Keeping currently closed streets closed through Labor Day.

“That gives us an opportunity to, in some ways, allow for the physical distancing, allow for that social distancing, but also allow people to have a place where people can travel, exercise, walk, bike, roll -- on streets, which are in better shape than our sidewalks,” he said.

The solution is nothing more than a band-aid to help cover cracks that may take even longer to fix.

Statistics provided by Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure show inspectors found the following since August of 2018 in Region 1.

-- 1,119 inspections completed in the first section of Region 1 (between Sherman and Downing, south of Speer)

-- 221 commercial inspections (includes businesses, apartments, condos, multi-family buildings)

-- 898 residential inspections

-- About 75% of residential properties have required repairs

-- About 66% percent of commercial properties have required repairs

-- Most common repair needed: new concrete (colored concrete is used to match flagstone/adjacent stone color).

-- About 350 residents have selected the city’s contractor to perform repairs

-- 595 residential repairs have been completed (some by city crews or our contractor; some private work)

-- 117 commercial repairs have been completed (all non-city work)

-- 80% of residential households will pay nothing (no repair required) or less than $1000

-- About 26 households have applied and qualified for assistance through the affordability program