Sidewalk repair program in Orange County

Deodat Budhu, P.E., Manager, Roads and Drainage Division, and Alexandra Bedoya, Engineer II, Orange County Public Works Department, Orlando, Florida
Sidewalks alongside our roads provide a safe area for pedestrians and supply fundamental services to all pedestrians, as they provide access to commercial areas, schools, businesses, government offices, and recreation areas. If maintenance to sidewalks were neglected, sidewalks would degrade and become severely damaged over time by the effects of weather and use, resulting in uneven or broken concrete that would inhibit pedestrian access or cause injuries. Therefore, a sidewalk repair program is essential to minimize the risks of trips and falls of pedestrians.

A sidewalk repair program has been in place in Orange County since August 2000, in which the County spends more than $1.5 million a year repairing sidewalks that have been damaged. Since the program began more than six years ago, the Roads and Drainage Division has repaired over 1,947,952 square feet of sidewalk through outside contractors, and 700,264 square feet of sidewalk by means of the in-house team section.

The sidewalk repair program has evolved throughout the years. In the beginning, staff relied on complaints received as well as staff reconnaissance of the area. Basically, the sidewalk repair program consisted in documenting and verifying the complaints received, and scheduling repairs to alleviate immediate hazards. Permanent repairs and/or replacements were prioritized based on the degree of damage observed and scheduled pending availability of funds and manpower.

The scheduling of follow-up inspections in response to each complaint received was a time-consuming task and generated significant quantities of paperwork, including field notes and inspection reports. Therefore, the Roads and Drainage Division decided to use database and Geographic Information System (GIS) technologies to improve the sidewalk repair program, minimize errors and reduce paperwork. A detailed and accurate inventory of sidewalk damage within approximately 1,000 square miles of county land area would be performed through field surveying to prioritize sidewalk maintenance and repair along County-maintained roadways, and to determine what safety measures to put in place.

Consultants were contracted to perform sidewalk damage assessments within each of eight County Maintenance Districts. The sidewalk damage inventory basically consisted of performing field inspections, collecting GIS data of each damage location, and building a database with ArcGIS(r) software to create maps. The field inspection was conducted by technicians who drove the County-maintained roadways within each district assessment area looking for visible signs of sidewalk damage criteria. Major roadways were driven and inspected in both directions of travel, whereas local roadways were usually driven only in one direction of travel. Field inspectors typically used a bicycle to assess subdivisions with extensive sidewalk damage. Identified damage was located with a submeter Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver and photographed in the field. Information such as sidewalk width and material, damage type, crack dimensions (horizontal and vertical), description of damage, and dimensions of sidewalk to be replaced, was also collected for each damage location.

Typical sidewalk damage found includes buckling, corner breaks, cracking, pop outs, shattering, scaling, and others.

Once all field data was collected, GPS data representing the locations of sidewalk damage was post-processed to archive submeter positional accuracy and projected to Florida State Plane coordinates (NAD83) for compatibility with the County's GIS system. The collected data was summarized in Microsoft Excel spreadsheet tables, together with subdivision maps showing the locations of identified damage within each subdivision, and photographs depicting the damage at each of the sidewalk damage locations.

Each subdivision map includes a district overview map, a location map, and a site map to show different levels of detail in locating sidewalk damage throughout the districts. Site maps provide a detailed picture of the assessed subdivisions.

Each damage point is shown in the GPS location collected in the field, depicted as a red "X" or marker, together with a red label denoting its unique Damage ID number. The site maps also show the street address of the parcels in the surrounding area.

These maps are great tools to the Orange County maintenance units, as they facilitate the field location of each sidewalk damage point. A Damage Table accompanies each map page to describe each of the damage locations found on the map.

Each damage point found is uniquely identified using a "Damage ID" number and is represented by a row in the table. For each row in the table, there are various columns of information pertaining to the damage point represented by the row:

  • Damage ID: The unique identifying number assigned to a damage point.

  • Street Name: The name of the closest street to the damage point.

  • Location Description: A more specific description of where the damage can be found.

  • Date: When the Surveying Company recorded the damage.

  • Commission District: The number of the County Commissioner's District where the damage was found. In Orange County there are six Commission Districts.

  • Maintenance District: A two-letter coded value representing the maintenance district. Orange County has eight maintenance districts.

  • Section: The Public Land Survey System (PLSS) designation for the Section, Township and Range in which the current damage point is located.

  • Sidewalk Width: The width of the sidewalk in inches.

  • Material: The material used to construct the sidewalk.

  • Notes: General observations made by the field personnel.

  • Dimensions: The measured width, length and depth of damage area.

  • Crack Width (Horizontal): The horizontal width (measured in inches) of any crack found.

  • Trip Edge Height (Vertical): The vertical height (measured in inches) of any trip edge found.

  • Type of Damage: An "X" is used to identify each type of damage (buckling, corner breaks, cracking, pop outs, shattering, scaling, etc.).

  • Recommended Action: An "X" is used to identify the recommended action: Repair: Some type of repair action is required, such as patching or filling; Grind: A trip edge exists that requires grinding; Replace: One or more sidewalk panels should be replaced.

  • Replacement Width: The estimated width, in inches, of the panels to be replaced.

  • Replacement Length: The estimated length, in inches, of the panels to be replaced.

  • Replacement Area: The estimated area, in square feet, of the panels to be replaced.

A sum of all the panel replacement areas (in square feet) is included at the bottom of each table, which can be used as a guide to estimate the total possible panel replacement within the map. The maps and damage tables contained within the report for each Maintenance District have been useful to prioritize and schedule the sidewalk repairs pending availability of funds and manpower.

Copies of these reports have been distributed to the corresponding maintenance units and are currently being used to evaluate the sidewalk damage and schedule the repairs.

The Orange County sidewalk repair program is now entering its seventh year. By keeping updated GIS data, the sidewalk repair activities can be tracked more efficiently for the benefit of the citizens. In addition, having the database and photographs in the office is a useful resource to answer inquiries without the need for a follow-up inspection. GIS and database technology has greatly modernized a labor-intensive process that usually generated considerable amounts of paperwork.

Deodat Budhu can be reached at (407) 836-7871 or; Alexandra Bedoya can be reached at (407) 836-7710 or