Mara Gomez relies on public transportation and sidewalks to get to her destinations around Houston. She lives outside Loop 610 in southeast Houston and often has to walk on streets because of the lack of sidewalks in her neighborhood.
“Walking is an experience in Houston,” said Gomez, a community engagement manager for LINK Houston, an organization that advocates for an equitable transportation system. “Just on my street alone, the stretch from my door at my home to my nearest bus stop — there’s sidewalks that are falling apart.”
Like many people across the region, Gomez uses sidewalks every day, but in some areas they need repairs or simply don’t exist. Here is what to know about sidewalks around Houston and neighboring cities, and how you can request repairs or ask for a new one:
Who repairs sidewalks in Houston?
In the city of Houston, property owners of the adjoining sidewalk are usually responsible for repairing it, according to the city’s ordinances.
However, Houston offers a way for residents to ask the city to build or repair sidewalks under three different scenarios: Projects along major thoroughfares, near schools, or that improve accessibility for people with disabilities are all eligible under the city’s sidewalk program.
The school sidewalk program allows sidewalks to be constructed up to four blocks leading to an existing school. The major thoroughfare program provides up to four blocks of new sidewalks along main arteries for people to safely access “shopping centers, bus stops and other frequently traveled routes,” according to the program’s guidelines.
You can submit a request for sidewalks near schools or along major thoroughfares online.
People with disabilities who do not have access to sidewalks can also contact the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities to report damaged or nonexistent sidewalks through the pedestrian accessibility review program, office director Angel Ponce said. The office is funded through Houston Public Works and came into existence in 2004 because of the lack of accessibility throughout the city.
You can submit a request online or call 832-394-0814. The office can also mail out a copy of the application to individuals if needed, Ponce said.
The city currently has 105 sidewalk projects and more applications are in the pipeline, said Erin Jones, spokesperson for Houston Public Works. The annual budget for the sidewalk program is $3.29 million, and there is a current waiting period for construction due to funding, resource, and contractor constraints, Jones said.
Fixing sidewalks in Katy
In surrounding cities like Katy, sidewalks are managed by the city’s Public Works Department. The department conducts regular assessments to identify potential problem spots in need of repair or replacement.
“For new developments, the construction of the sidewalk is the responsibility of the developer,” said Ian Clowes, community development director for the city of Katy. “Construction plans are submitted to the city for review to ensure that minimum construction standards are met.”
Once construction is completed, the city conducts a final inspection and assumes ownership and maintenance for all public sidewalks located within the city right-of-way, he said.
Sidewalks built along private roads within gated communities are the responsibility of the homeowner association.
Residents can request new sidewalks by contacting the city’s planning department via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If a sidewalk needs to be repaired, contact public works directly at email@example.com to expedite the process, Clowes said.
Sidewalks in Sugar Land
In the city of Sugar Land, sidewalks within public right-of-ways are managed by the city while other sidewalks are managed by property owners. City sidewalks are maintained through Sugar Land’s sidewalk rehabilitation program, which accepts requests for repairs.
“We then take that information and we add it on a repair list and go out and make necessary repairs for sidewalks that meet the criteria for that,” said Ryon Bell, streets and drainage manager for the city of Sugar Land.
The city’s Public Works Department oversees maintenance of more than 850 miles of sidewalks throughout the city. The department completes an annual assessment of all sidewalk locations and severity of vertical trip hazards.
Officials identified the following problems on sidewalks in Sugar Land:
- Trip hazard greater than two inches – 3,720 locations
- Trip hazard greater than an inch but less than two inches – 16,418 locations
- Trip hazard less than an inch – 53,287 locations
Requests for repairs within the city right-of-way can be submitted through Sugar Land’s 311 Contact Center. The city receives about 800 service requests for sidewalk concerns annually. The estimated timeline for repairs is 14 to 20 months, but officials say a city contractor is working on the backlog.
Sidewalks located in Conroe’s right-of-way are maintained by the city, said Andrew Yousse, communications and public information officer for the city of Conroe. Utility districts or homeowners groups own other sidewalks, and the Texas Department of Transportation maintains sidewalks in its right-of-way.
Conroe has an ordinance that requires developers to install sidewalks along all collector or thoroughfare roads, where feasible, Yousse said. Developers construct the majority of sidewalks in the city. If they need to be repaired, it’s usually the responsibility of the homeowners association.
The city also has a capital improvements program in which a sidewalk project can be requested by city council, citizens or other city departments.
Often citizens want a sidewalk constructed in front of their home but don’t realize it’ll be open to the public, Yousse said. They then complain to city staff about how it is being used by others.
“Sometimes when we connect communities, we get complaints that the homeless and others outside of their community are the only folks who use the walk,” he said. “It is very difficult to restrict access on public sidewalks.”