Richmond maintenance crews will repair and repave approximately 8 miles of sidewalk through the next 12 months.
After spending less than $500,000 annually for sidewalk repairs in recent years, fixing only 1 or 2 miles of sidewalk each year, the city is investing $2.4 million to shrink a six-year backlog of maintenance requests and orders.
In a news conference Thursday announcing the launch of the city’s sidewalk maintenance program for the year, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said the money will be used to hire dozens of new workers for six new concrete and brick repair crews.
“The end result of all of this is better and faster service to our residents and taxpayers. And when it comes to sidewalk maintenance, it means better and safer pedestrian access throughout our neighborhoods,” Stoney said Thursday as a crew repaired a section of sidewalk on McGuire Drive in South Richmond.
Last year was the deadliest for pedestrians in the Richmond area. Out of the 33 pedestrians killed in the metropolitan region, nine were in Richmond, according to Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles data. So far in 2021, two pedestrians in Richmond have been killed in motor vehicle crashes, while 14 others have been seriously injured.
John Edwards, 76, said this week’s sidewalk repair across the street from his home on McGuire Drive was long overdue. He said the repair makes him feel safer, as he stopped driving about a decade ago and now walks or rides GRTC buses to run errands and go shopping.
“It was in bad shape. ... It had a drop of 6 to 8 inches in one part,” he said, describing its condition before this week. “I’m glad they’re doing this.”
Bobby Vincent, director of the city’s public works department, said there are currently about 2,000 open requests for repairs in sections of the more than 800 miles of sidewalk in the city. He said the work is prioritized based on the condition of a sidewalk, population density and proximity to businesses, schools, churches and bus stops.
Stoney and Vincent said the current backlog equates to about six years of work, but they are hopeful that the $2.4 million allocated this year can begin to reduce the workload to one year by the end of 2023.
The sidewalk maintenance budget is being bolstered by money from the Central Virginia Transportation Authority, a new regional body that is managing around $200 million in new annual revenue from recent increases to the sales and fuel tax rates in Richmond; the town of Ashland; and the counties of Henrico, Hanover, Chesterfield, Goochland, New Kent, Powhatan and Charles City.
Half of the annual revenue is split proportionally among all of the localities, while 35% is reserved for regionally significant projects overseen by the authority. The remaining 15% is allocated to GRTC for bus system improvements and expansions that benefit the region.
“We have been doing a lot of paving ... as well as sidewalk repair,” Vincent said. “We’ve been trying to do a better job in terms of streets clean and safe, but we also have to do a better job with regards to some of our other infrastructure needs, such as flooding and stormwater management.”
“I want to make certain that we stay on top of those things.”