by Marlene Berlin
A 2010 DC law required DDOT to prioritize sidewalk installation near schools, recreation centers, transit hubs and other locations where a lack of sidewalks might create a safety hazard for pedestrians. But DDOT did not change its policies and procedures after the passage of the Priority Sidewalk Assurance Act until Iona Senior Services presented recommendations for revisions. DDOT had agreed to take these recommendations under consideration.
We finally have results. The DDOT Sidewalk Installation Policy (PDF) released in June lays it all out.
Jennifer Hefferan heads the DDOT sidewalk installation team taking the lead on this effort. She is also DDOT’s Safe Routes to School coordinator. Hefferan and her team have developed a point system for identifying where new sidewalks should receive the highest priority. Here are some highlights:
Hefferan’s point system takes a page from the Iona Sidewalk Gaps Project’s recommendations, which Sharon Bauer and I presented to DDOT a year ago. She uses our recommendation of using a quarter of a mile distance from schools, recreation centers and transit hubs as priority areas. The point system also gives weight to the level of vehicle use on the roadways. Major arterials get 40 points, minor arterials are worth 30, and collectors score 20 points. This reflects the safety hazard such roads present to pedestrians.
Segments that score the highest get funding priority. In July, Ms. Hefferan contacted me to say the federal money had finally been obligated. DDOT hopes to spend the $2 million over two years.
Neighborhoods can still petition for a sidewalk, but this process allows a much more proactive approach to closing sidewalk gaps and recognizes that sidewalk network is the foundation of our transportation system. Sidewalks, after all, connect us to bus stops, Metro stations, and even our personal cars.
It is still unclear which sidewalk gaps will be addressed at this point, or when, but this is definitely progress.