After several years of litigation the City of Los Angeles agreed to fix the city’s broken sidewalks and ensure accessibility and safety for all. This legal agreement represents the largest disability payout in the country. The settlement calls for a citywide sidewalk repair plan and spending over $1 billion in funds to fix and improve sidewalks throughout the city (see LA Times and Legal Aid Society coverage and analysis).
Next steps include developing a work plan and prioritization of efforts. Right now the City has over $27 million in approved budgeted funds to get started on this work this year. The source of transportation funds for this work beyond the initial $27 million has not yet been identified. The city is also creating a position to monitor the work and will draft reports on its progress twice yearly.
In order to leverage the funds for this scale of infrastructure rehab (over 10,000 miles of sidewalks within the city), an inventory and prioritization process is needed to develop a citywide strategic plan. The data collected and metrics used will enable articulation of detailed costs and an implementation program. Social equity and public health data will need to be critical parts of the performance metrics process to ensure the best outcomes for the highest needs communities in the City. Having a solid strategic plan will enable the city to compete for federal, state and regional transportation funds to complete the infrastructure repair.
Project delivery, transparency and coordination with other Citywide transportation projects will be critical for the sidewalk repair program. 30 years seems like a long time to wait to fix the city’s broken sidewalks, and this process should be accelerated to be completed within 10-15 years. Metro’s 30/10 program offers an example of how this could be done.
However, the City of Los Angeles struggles with delivering transportation projects in timely manner. During the October 2014 Street Transportation Project Oversight Committee and Transportation Committee meetings (audio of meeting, discussion at 58 minute mark), staff discussed the current backlog of safe routes to school, walking, and bicycling projects. This backlog of projects, totaling close to 1/4 of a billion dollars, is waiting for delivery by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Bureau of Street Services (BSS). These are combination of federal, state, and Metro grant funds that the city has been awarded but has not yet implemented.
It is exciting to see the City of Los Angeles ready to fix its broken sidewalks and focus on improving multi-modal travel as seen in the draft mobility plan and DOT strategic plan, but it is critical that the funding and efficient project delivery becomes aligned with these policies goals.