Beyond repair: Councillors take step toward renewal program that's solely for sidewalks

·3 min read
Neighbourhood renewal is an ongoing program in Edmonton where sidewalks and roads are rebuilt.  (Natasha Riebe/CBC - image credit)
Neighbourhood renewal is an ongoing program in Edmonton where sidewalks and roads are rebuilt. (Natasha Riebe/CBC - image credit)

Edmonton sidewalks could get their own renewal program, one that would be separate from the current neighbourhood renewal program, city councillors agreed Monday at a community and public services committee meeting.

The move comes on the heels of a report that outlined

The committee directed administration to draw up some options for a sidewalk renewal plan after receiving a report that outlined long timelines for fixing sidewalk cracks and other trip hazards. The committee expects to hear those ideas at the end of April.

Coun. Andrew Knack said he has filed complaints to 311 about a sidewalk in Terra Losa near two seniors' residences. After a year, nothing has been done.

It's especially hazardous to someone who uses a cane, walker or wheelchair, Knack noted.

"They don't feel safe walking to the grocery store, which is truly across the street," Knack said in an interview Monday. "That's embarrassing that folks can't go pretty much across the street to access some of the most basic necessities that they have in their lives."

Knack said some deteriorating sidewalks could be in areas where neighbourhood renewal work is still 20 years off.

"I don't want to see a situation in which we're trying to Band-Aid sidewalk repairs for 20 years while we wait for full reconstruction," Knack said.

Coun. Michael Janz raised the idea of a sidewalk-specific renewal plan in a motion that also calls for the city to prioritize annual inspections for sidewalks in high-need areas such as near seniors residences.

Janz said the inspections would make the city more proactive.

"They're literally hand-writing and mailing my office, sidewalk complaints," Janz said in the meeting. "It's unduly burdening them with the inspection and enforcement and reporting function that we as the city should take on."

The report also shows the budget for sidewalk repair has been nearly the same for 10 years, at about $4 million a year.

Raising the standards will come down to money, Coun. Aaron Paquette noted.

In the fall, council goes into a new budget cycle for 2023-2026 where adjustments can be made.

"This is something we've been talking about for years — years upon years," said Paquette, who hears complaints about bumpy and unsightly asphalt patches on sidewalks in his ward.

"It's been a frustration for a long time and this four-year budget is the opportunity to change that conversation."

Gord Cebryk, deputy manager of city operations, agreed that sidewalk repairs will have a budget impact.

"The amount that we do and the speed that we do the work is probably the biggest factor in terms of what resources are required," Cebryk told the committee.

Knack agreed it will require budget adjustments in the next cycle.

"If we're not willing to change the level of investments, then it's just a bunch of words that I'm saying," Knack said. "And so like with snow removal, like with a number of these other things, are we going to, as a council, put in the funding that is necessary?"

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