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How Does The City Of Bloomington Decide Where Sidewalks Should Go?

A sidewalk in a residential neighborhood

Developers are required to meet set standards for how wide the sidewalks they build should be and where they can go. (WTIU/WFIU News)

Sidewalks are being built in a number of spring construction projects around Bloomington. Meanwhile, there are some sidewalks that lead to nowhere.

Residents like Jenny Mack wonder who is making the decisions about where sidewalks should go and how these decisions are made.

“I’m kind of wondering why they continue but then will stop abruptly and pick up maybe a block or half block later and wondering why that happens,” she says.

Question-asker Jenny explains why she's curious about city sidewalks.
Bloomington resident, Jenny Mack says she relies on sidewalks for recreation, but she's curious how the city decides where sidewalks should and shouldn't go. (WTIU/WFIU News) 

 City Public Works Director Adam Wason says for adding new sidewalks, the answer is straightforward - developers are the ones responsible for putting in new sidewalks with their properties.

“So very rarely is it the city that’s going to be going in and building a new sidewalk in an area, it’s usually the result of a new development or redevelopment of an existing site,” Wason says.

The process is outlined in Bloomington’s zoning code, which requires developers to meet set standards for how wide the sidewalk should be and where they can go.

And adding a new sidewalk could cost the developer about $60 a foot. That can add up - to about $80,000 dollars for every quarter mile of sidewalk in a residential development.

But Wason says developers weren’t required to build sidewalks with their properties until the early 1970s, which explains why some sidewalks in older residential areas don’t connect.

“And the hope there is that as the future developments occur or as redevelopments occur that you’d continue connecting those sidewalks,” he says.

Common Council Sidewalk Committee chair Dorothy Granger  says that committee works to find target areas in which new sidewalks are needed, but seeking funding is often the challenge.

“Basically our charge is to try to figure out how to spend a very limited pot of money to create sidewalks for our community,” Granger says.

Each year the committee ranks a list of sidewalk projects, factoring in walkability, average traffic and input from the community. But Granger says the alternative transportation funds used for these projects is often scarce.

Existing sidewalks throughout the city also need work. That work is paid for in a different way. Bloomington’s municipal code says property owners are responsible for the maintenance and repair of the adjacent sidewalk.

But repairs for unkept sidewalks can become expensive. That’s why the city has launched a program allowing single-family property owners who live in their homes to apply for the city to share the cost of repairs.

“Residents can see if they’re eligible within the geographic area and we will split the cost of the sidewalk repair with the resident, again just in an effort to try to encourage that maintenance, that upkeep, that walkability of the community,” Wason says.

The sidewalk participation program aims to help residents in low-income areas by matching them with 50 percent of the repair cost with money from the city’s general fund.

It’s an effort by the city of Bloomington to ensure no sidewalks are left behind, which helps to make a way for pedestrians on the go.

“As a runner it’s really nice to be able to have those reliable sidewalks to avoid traffic so they don’t necessarily have to look out for me, and I can just remain on the sidewalk to get around,” Mack says.

Residents who want to take part in the city’s sidewalk repair program can get an application by contacting the city’s Department of Public Works or visiting their office. The city will consider the first round of applications by May 15.  

Have a question? Ask City Limits:

Our community is changing, from closing businesses to traffic and road construction to affordable housing, and we see the impact of these changes all around us.

We want to know: What questions do you have about how the Bloomington of tomorrow will impact your work, your personal life, your community and your future?

Here’s how it works: You submit a question you’d like us to explore about how Bloomington has changed over the past few decades, what you want to see for the city in the future and how ties with IU continue to shape the community.  

So: What do you wonder about how Bloomington is changing and how it impacts your life?

Interested in an ongoing conversation how Bloomington is changing? Join our Facebook group!

 

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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