Over the next couple of months you may see X marks on city sidewalks around town. Rest assured this is not some modern equivalent to the marking of houses that were infected with the plague. No, this is a much friendlier mark. It’s the identification of sidewalks that are in need of repair and have thus been marked for replacement by the City’s contractor. Here’s a short update on the City’s 2008 Sidewalk program.
The City Engineering Division budgeted $100,000 to spend on sidewalk repairs this year and as many of you walkers can attest, our sidewalks need every penny of it. The charm of our older neighborhoods with tree lined streets also means that we’ve got a lot of aging concrete out there that roots and weather have taken a toll on.
Each year the Engineering Division does a condition assessment and prioritizes projects according to a severity index in order to be as objective and effective with limited dollars as possible. Lots of sidewalks need repair and unfortunately we just can’t afford to do them all in one year so each year we try to make a dent and hopefully over time we’ll make an impact. Time has a way of turning assets (like sidewalks) into liabilities and the key is timing infrastructure just right…not too early and not too late. That’s the logic of the science behind selecting sidewalks for repairs so if your sidewalk isn’t on the list, it doesn’t mean we don’t care, it just means it’s in the queue for future years.
For point of reference, we can replace sidewalk for about $20 to $25/linear foot depending on the thickness of the sidewalk. That means if we spend every penny we’ve got budgeted we can do about 3/4 of a mile worth of sidewalk replacement. I’m guessing that we’ve got some 110 miles of sidewalk around town so you can see that even though $100,000 is a lot of money it doesn’t go that far when you look at the total needs citywide.
We did find it to be cheaper to outsource the sidewalk repairs so a local contractor has been hired to get the work done. I point this out only to note that we constantly look at how to stretch our dollars and for jobs of this magnitude it pays to use a contractor.
For the historians among us, here’s an interesting excerpt from the Queen’s (as in England) book on the Plague related to the marking of houses complements of the University of Virginia Library:
“the infection happen in houses dispersed in Villa-
ges, and separated from other houses, and that of
necessity, for the serving of their cattle, and manu-
ring of their ground, the said person cannot conti-
nue in their houses, then they to be nevertheless re-
strained from resorting into company of others, ei-
ther publicly or privately during the said time of
restraint, and to wear some mark in their upper-
most garments, or bear white rods in their hands
at such time as they shall go abroad, and if there
be any doubt that the masters and owners of the
houses infected, will not duly observe the directi-
ons of shutting up their doors, specially in the
night, then shall there be appointed two or three
watchmen by turns, which shall be sworn to at-
tend and watch the house, and to apprehend any
person that shall come out of the house contrary to
order, and the same persons by order of the Justi-
ces, shall be a competent time imprisoned in the stocks
in the highway next to the house infected: and fur-
thermore, some special mark shall be made and fix-
ed to the doors of every of the infected houses, and
where any such houses shall be Inns or Alehou-
ses, the signs shall be taken down for the time of the
restraint, and some cross or other mark set up in
the place thereof, to be a token of the sickness. “