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Chicago Shared-Cost Sidewalk Repair Program Funding Jumps 25 Percent

By Serena Dai | February 11, 2013 7:40am | Updated on February 11, 2013 9:15am
 Replacing a crumbling sidewalk is expensive. The city will pick up half the tab for homeowners as part of the Shared Cost Sidewalk Program.
Replacing a crumbling sidewalk is expensive. The city will pick up half the tab for homeowners as part of the Shared Cost Sidewalk Program.
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CHICAGO — Good news for homeowners with terrible sidewalks: a popular program allowing homeowners to share the cost of sidewalk repair with the city just got a 25 percent jump in funding, meaning nearly 300 more homes can participate, the mayor's office said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is set to announce an additional $500,000 in funding for the $2 million Shared Cost Sidewalk program, where homeowners who want a speedier repair to their sidewalks pay for a part of the costs. In 2013, the city received so many requests that it reached capacity in three days.

In the program, Chicago Department of Transportation engineers review the sidewalk to determine whether it qualifies. Participating homeowners then pay a flat rate of $3 per square foot, with an average charge of $1,000, and the city pays the rest. Senior citizens and the disabled receive a 50 percent discount.

CDOT received 1,800 requests for the program this year. It expected to repair 720 sidewalks, but with the extra funding now anticipates fixing nearly 1,000.

The extra funds come from the city's Capital Improvement Program, according to Bill McCaffrey, a spokesman for the mayor's office. The program's funding used to be as much as $5 million, said Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), an advocate of the program whose ward had the second-highest demand for the program with 232 requests. Now it's slowly moving back up.

Last year, 40 percent of homeowners who were approved for the program participated, meaning 800 repaired sidewalks, according to McCaffrey.

Residents can call in cracked sidewalks to 311, but larger stretches of street can benefit from the shared program, Tunney said — especially when people start noticing improvement in their neighbor's sidewalk. Plus, not all cracks qualify as trip hazards for 311 repairs.

"It takes so darn long," Tunney said of the 311 repair process. "And they could just replace the 5-by-5 square. But in this case, they repair the whole walk."

The 19th Ward, which includes Beverly and Mount Greenwood, saw the highest demand for the program, with 244 requests in 2013. The 44th Ward, which encompasses much of Lakeview, saw the second-highest with 232. And the third highest was the 41st Ward, including Edison Park and Norwood Park, with 173 requests.

Sidewalk damage can cause unsafe conditions for pedestrians, and slow repairs from 311 potentially costs the city millions.

A 2011 investigation by CBS 2 found that the city repaired fewer than 1,000 sidewalks out of 12,000 requests made in 2010. The city paid some $3.5 million over the preceding three years to people who suffered injuries from poor pavement.

The public-private partnership of the Shared Cost Sidewalk Program is popular because it improves safety and the appearance of homes, Tunney said. He said his constituents agree.

"They think it's a reasonably priced program to do a couple of things: to repair the cracks in the sidewalks and curb line," he said. "And it really adds to value to the curb appeal of the house."