There are over 140,000 problems with Hamilton's sidewalks

There are over 140,000 problems with Hamilton's sidewalks. They often last over 60 years, says a city director, but the industry standard is 20 years less.

Fixing every deficiency in 1 year would cost $44M, says city

Here's how the city plots its sidewalks deficiencies. The green markers show problems that are above the minimum standards and the red markers are below. (Public Works/City of Hamilton)

There are 140,370 problems with Hamilton's sidewalks, but the city only considers 4,146 of those as significant enough to warrant fixing. 

The other 136,224 are above the city's minimum maintenance standards. Though the city's sidewalks are aging, Dan McKinnon, general manager of the city's public works, says issues won't be addressed unless it passes this threshold. 

"Cracks in sidewalks on their own may aesthetically look unpleasing, but that doesn't necessarily mean that we're going to respond to do something about it," he said. 

A problem is considered below the standard if it exceeds two centimetres. If the issue is a vertical one —like a sidewalk tilting due to the roots of a tree — it has to create a "step formation" at the joint or crack in the concrete. 

According to 2019 numbers presented in Wednesday's general issues committee, if the City of Hamilton tried to fix all the sidewalk deficiencies in one year, it would cost $44 million. 

The sidewalk program gets about $6 million a year. 

This snippet of the city's map shows sidewalk deficiencies in the downtown area between Cannon Street W and York Boulevard, and Bay Street North and James Street North. (Public Works/City of Hamilton)

McKinnon said he knows councillors field complaints, but his suspicion is they're often for aesthetic issues that don't need to be strictly addressed.

Ward 9 Coun. Brad Clark disagrees. 

"I am surprised by the number of cracks that are trip hazards, the amount of pavement or asphalt that was put down to fix a trip hazard years ago that's still there," he said. "I've got lots of issues and concerns in my ward with regard to the sidewalks."

City staff inspect the 2,445 km stretch of sidewalks annually by walking them and noting problems. The city's director of transportation operations, Edward Soldo said sometimes points are added to their map via calls from councillors or residents. 

Some issues with sidewalks, such as the concrete spalling, might look aesthetically unpleasing, said Dan McKinnon, director of Hamilton's public works. But it doesn't mean it warrants fixing. (Public Works/City of Hamilton)

Sidewalks are too old, says city official 

About 1.5 per cent of the city's sidewalks are replaced each year, partly by the city's transportation group and partly by engineering services as well as external contractors. 

This means the sidewalks have a 62-year life cycle, McKinnon said, which isn't up to snuff. He says the industry suggests a two or three per cent goal so that sidewalks last for 40 years. 

"In the Canadian environment, that is not a good number," he said. "Some sidewalks at the age of 60 look pretty good, but most of them are in pretty bad shape. And so I think that's what council is hearing from the community." 

These deficiencies are in the area of Stoney Creek. (Public Works/City of Hamilton.)

Those minimum maintenance standards, McKinnon said, were developed by the province to give municipalities a way to protect themselves against claims of negligence and liabilities.


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