Sidewalks! From $1 million to $20 million per year

Mark Macy
Assistant Director of Public Works
City of Nashville, Tennessee
Chair, APWA Utility and Public Right-of-Way Committee

The long-term investment in sidewalks has become a priority in Nashville. Historically, the priority had been on providing capacity improvements for moving vehicles as quickly as possible with little or no focus on providing facilities and infrastructure for pedestrians to walk. Since 1999, the focus in Nashville-Davidson County has shifted, with over $55 million being allocated strictly for improvements to sidewalks.

In order to carry out this program, we had to develop a short-term and long-term plan of action. First, we focused on building sidewalks near schools and in making our city accessible as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Then we began working on a strategic plan for sidewalks and bikeways. We started this plan so that we could know where sidewalks were needed and where we were as a city.

The Strategic Plan for Sidewalks and Bikeways has been finished. It shows that Nashville has 752 miles of sidewalks. We know that because each and every mile of sidewalk has been checked and recorded as part of an inventory for this strategic plan. We also know how we compare with other cities. Indianapolis has 2,855 miles of sidewalks, nearly one mile of sidewalk for each mile of roadway. Nashville has only a quarter of a mile for each roadway mile.

The plan recommended that we provide $20 million in capital funds each year for thirteen years to build new sidewalks, repair damages, and continue to make our sidewalks accessible.

The challenge is to develop a program to "ramp up" sidewalk production in Nashville from $1 million to $20 million per year.

Most of the existing sidewalks in Nashville-Davidson County are located in areas of the city that were developed prior to World War II. These areas are generally located within the old city limits of Nashville, the jurisdictional boundary that applied prior to the merger of the city and county governments in 1963. The areas of the county that have developed very recently also have sidewalks, due to mid-1990s amendments to the Subdivision Regulations that required, for the first time, sidewalks on one side of new streets. Since then, the Subdivision Regulations have been further strengthened to require, among other provisions, sidewalks on both sides of streets. Where sidewalks are generally lacking are those areas of the county that developed between the 1940s and the mid-1990s. In terms of land mass, more development occurred during this period than at any time before. Some pre-war neighborhoods also do not have sidewalks, or have missing segments within their sidewalk networks.

Survey teams walked all 752 miles of sidewalks in Davidson County and collected data identifying the location, condition, and characteristics of each sidewalk. All data were recorded using handheld computers and software that were specially developed for this inventory. The tools that were used to collect data included "Smart Tool" digital levels, measuring wheels and tape measures. All collected data were recorded on a block-by-block basis that covered over 7,170 blocks.

Pedestrian Improvement Allocations
Metro's annual sidewalk budget includes allocations for the following types of projects:

  • Sidewalk repairs (correcting sidewalk problems)
  • Ramp repairs (correcting ramp problems)
  • New sidewalks
  • Pedestrian enhancements (crosswalk improvements, pedestrian signals, etc.)
  • Maintenance
The amount of money that is allocated to each type of project must ensure that all ADA noncompliant ramps are replaced by 2005, as required by Metro's agreement with the federal courts regarding ADA. The allocations also enable the remaining ramp and sidewalk problems to be corrected within a reasonable timeframe. Another important goal is to increase the total number of miles of sidewalks, while providing for other pedestrian enhancements and maintenance. In 2003 Metro Government allocated $20 million to sidewalks, in addition to $15 million in 2001 and $20 million in 2002.

Program Management GIS
To carry out the design and construction management of the program, Metro Public Works hired USInfrastructure (USI) to manage all aspects of the administration, planning, design, and construction management phases of the program. USI is also accountable for developing a GIS tracking system for sidewalk management and construction.

USI has developed a system known as the Sidewalk Information Management System (SIMS). SIMS is an open-ended GIS architecture. SIMS operates off of a base centerline file that already exists within Metro Nashville Public Works. Its capabilities were merely expanded to fit into the realm of customer service and automated information tracking of project construction and costs. The extra abilities of the product have helped to create a system that not only tracks the program and projects as they are developed, but also allows for the accurate tracking of costs associated with the program. This data in turn provides printed reports and status updates. SIMS also allows for the automated website to be updated with current information to the public domain that runs from the website. All information concerning the layout of the master plan and projects as well as the opportunity for public feedback is accessible from this site.

Work is completed in a timely and cost-effective manner while coordinating with other departments (i.e., Paving) that go hand-in-hand with the efforts of the Sidewalk Program. The goal of Public Works is to increase the sidewalk program and its volume of work consistently each year. From the year 2003 to 2007, the production of sidewalks will increase to achieve an overall goal from $12 million in 2003 to $20 million in 2007. This will be an attainable goal following the utilization of four methods of contracting listed below and described in the paragraphs to follow.

  1. Annual Contracting (a.k.a. Indefinite Delivery Orders)
  2. Tier 1 and Tier 2 Contracting
  3. Bid Packaging
  4. Combination of Projects with other Public Works programs (i.e., Water Services and Paving Programs)
Annual Contracting. Using the Annual Contractors, whose total approximates $12 million in combined capacity per year, will allow for ease and speed in the process of getting the work exposed, contracted and completed in a time frame that is agreeable with Nashville's own time constraints. This helps to get the capacity of sidewalk construction for a given year completed within that year.

Tier 1 and Tier 2 Contracting. Tier 1 and Tier 2 contractors are pre-approved lists of contractors that have already met the construction requirements of Metro Government and wish to merely submit on a bid. Upon completing the selection process the lowest bid will receive the work and begin in a timely manner. The Tier 1 contractors are small business contractors comprising work with a ceiling of $25,000 contract price, while the Tier 2 is provided for larger firms with a ceiling of work comprising $100,000. These programs have done very well for Metro in the past, but with the significant increase in work there will be a need to attract larger contractors to achieve the goal of sidewalk production.

Bid Packaging. Bid packaging is achieved in several different ways, starting with the packaging of projects into large groupings in the $1 million, $2 million and $3 million ranges. The intent is to attract larger construction firms and in turn provide for more competitive bidding. Some packaging according to specific locations could also allow for a smoother and quicker process and product. When all the work is comprised in one area a contractor can mobilize his crews and have them follow one after the other in a formation comparable to an assembly line. This plan could hopefully increase production and complete work more quickly.

Combining Projects with Other Public Works Programs. By combining the projects of Paving, Water Services and Sidewalks, there is the opportunity for a complete utility coordination effort. This effort has the chance to bring all entities to one project and get all necessary actions taken care of at once. This could lead to overall minimization of time and effort, allowing a capable contractor to be in and out of one neighborhood or street with all repairs complete at one time. This gives the contractor the opportunity to bid on the work of an entire street for Water Services, Paving, and Sidewalks.

Mark Macy will present an educational session at the 2003 Congress in San Diego entitled, "Electronic Permitting: The Next Generation." The session is on Tuesday, August 26, from 3-4:30 p.m. He can be reached at (615) 862-8764 or at