New Pittsburgh program would repair sidewalks for homeowners at reduced cost

PITTSBURGH — Making Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods safer, one sidewalk at a time: that’s the goal of proposed legislation making its way through Pittsburgh City Council, a sidewalk pilot program designed to help residents, homeowners and business owners.

“It’s one of the requests that we hear most from our residents, is what are we doing about the sidewalks? We don’t have the authority on our own to go fix and repair sidewalks — that’s generally up to landlords or property owners to repair,” said Maria Montano, communications director for the mayor’s office.

Through the pilot program, the Department of Public Works crews would make sidewalk repairs at a reduced cost to homeowners. City officials said the program would be supported by the general fund, describing it as a low-cost alternative to hiring a contractor to make this as affordable as possible.

“For neighborhoods that are in high need, we’re offering structured repayment plans and those fees are also adjustable based on A.M.I. [Area Median Income], so lower-income families will be paying less than those who have the means to do so,” Montano said.

City officials have identified four neighborhoods that are in the lower-income range to begin the pilot phase, overlaying that with Safe Routes to Schools program.

“We’re looking at those sidewalks along those corridors to see which of the ones are in the most disrepair, and let’s start there. Let’s get those sidewalks that our kids are using every day to get to and from school to make them the best that they can be,” Montano said.

City council will take a final vote on the matter this week.

Councilwoman Barbara Warwick of District 5 sent us this statement:

“Deteriorating sidewalks create a major accessibility issue for many of our most vulnerable residents, so I’m glad that DOMI is piloting new ways to address the problem. That said, it’s going to be important that they work closely with respective council members to be sure that residents are informed and involved and that the places of greatest need are where we’re focusing efforts. Overall, though, I’d really like to see the city take over responsibility for all of our sidewalks and start prioritizing pedestrian access and safety to the same degree that we prioritize access for cars. Perhaps some type of sidewalk fund that could be paid for in part by citing illegal parking - especially parking on sidewalks - which damages our infrastructure and also makes those sidewalks impassible for people on foot.”

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