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Lincoln Insider: How bad must Lincoln sidewalks be to get repaired?
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Lincoln Insider: How bad must Lincoln sidewalks be to get repaired?

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Question: What level of damage prompts repairs for city sidewalks?

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A man emailed the newspaper in early July sounding the alarm about the state of the sidewalks in front of the Sharp Building at 13th and N streets. 

He worried the deteriorating sidewalk outside the offices of the Downtown Lincoln Association were a lawsuit waiting to happen. 

When, the man asked, was this "walking hazard" set for repairs?

When contacted by the Journal Star, Lincoln Transportation and Utilities Department staff said the torn-up tract of sidewalk was already on the slate for repair work and it has since been fixed.

The beat-up walkway outside the Sharp Building was one of 613 sidewalk projects across the city that contractors will repair by the end of 2019, according to LTU.

Lincoln has more than 1,500 miles of sidewalk and all repairs to those walkways are the city's responsibility, according to LTU. 

A number of factors determine which sidewalks get work done, but looks aren't the key concern, said senior engineer Taylor Buss, who oversees the sidewalk program.

"We're more worried about functionality," Buss said. 

Key criteria for sidewalk repair includes the severity of its condition, whether more work can be done for a cheaper price, the amount of foot traffic in that locale, how long a repair request has been pending and how close it is to schools, entertainment districts or assisted-living facilities.

When the vertical separation between one sidewalk panel and another measures more than 2 inches, the sidewalk is red-flagged for repairs, Buss said.

In the case of the Sharp Building sidewalk, the combination of the location, more than average foot traffic and the level of deterioration made it one of the city's priority repair projects this year. 

And by early August, contractors had poured smooth concrete, completely replacing the sidewalk and terrazzo on the west and north side of the building.

On average, a new sidewalk has a 30-year lifespan, Buss said. 

LTU has a $1.5 million annual budget for sidewalk maintenance and repair, which includes $1 million for planned projects, handled mostly by contractors. The remaining $500,000 is used to respond to situations needing immediate attention, he said. 

Some sidewalks are repaired soon after they're contracted, while others can be in the queue multiple construction seasons based on available funding. 

This year, the contracted repairs included priority sidewalk projects as well as a pilot project of sidewalk maintenance in the University Place area, Buss said.

The pilot project explored whether the city could get more sidewalk improvements done at a cheaper price by concentrating on an area, he said.

The city also designates $75,000 for sidewalk repair reimbursements, a program that allows property owners to be paid back by the city for sidewalk work they handle on their own if their sidewalk qualifies and the owner has preapproval.

The reimbursement rate for repair work is $4 per square foot. Mudjacking — a method to raise and level sidewalks that have sunk — costs up to $3 a square foot, according to the city

Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

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