Audit Report

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Neighborhood Sidewalk Repair Program

To determine whether the design, implementation, and evaluation of the Neighborhood Sidewalk Repair Program allows the Department of Transportation & Infrastructure to ensure it achieves intended outputs and outcomes, and to analyze the extent to which the program’s processes allow the Department of Transportation & Infrastructure to repair Denver’s sidewalks efficiently, effectively, and in an equitable manner.

The Department of Transportation & Infrastructure implemented the Neighborhood Sidewalk Repair Program in 2018, as requested by City Council,
to proactively address sidewalks across the city that are “damaged, uneven, or sloping excessively.” The goal was to ensure the city has a well-maintained sidewalk network for all Denver residents and visitors.

Time frames for sidewalk repairs — and who is responsible for completing and paying for them — are outlined in city ordinance. The city was divided into 11 regions, and Transportation & Infrastructure planned to complete inspections and repairs in one region per year.

As of September 2020, the program was still operating in Region 1. The last sidewalk inspection occurred in October 2019.

In our first audit of the Neighborhood Sidewalk Repair Program, we found the Department of Transportation & Infrastructure needs to evaluate how it designs and implements the program and how it evaluates the program’s success.

The Department of Transportation & Infrastructure Needs to Improve the Design of the Neighborhood Sidewalk Repair Program

  • The department inadequately designed the sidewalk repair program, including by not aligning it with other Denver initiatives that focus on ADA compliance. The department provided limited documentation and had limited historical knowledge regarding the program’s design.
  • When designing the program, the department did not document a process to proactively communicate and coordinate sidewalk repairs with other city agencies and local utilities.
  • The program design does not offer affordability options to all Denver residents. This results in residents having unequal access to safe and accessible sidewalks and places an undue and inequitable financial burden on some Denver residents.

The Department of Transportation & Infrastructure Has Not Effectively Implemented, Monitored, or Evaluated the Neighborhood Sidewalk Repair Program

  • The program’s repairs are sometimes not compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act standards or department rules and regulations.
  • The program is not meeting its goal to complete inspections and repairs in one region per year. At its current pace, city officials estimate it will take more than 50 years to complete the program.
  • The department does not use strong data collection and review methods.

 

1.1 Conduct Needs Assessment – The Department of Transportation & Infrastructure should conduct and document a formal needs assessment of the Neighborhood Sidewalk Repair Program to ensure the program meets the city’s needs.

Agency Response: Agree, Implementation Date April 30, 2021

1.2 Review, Update, and Document Program Design – The Department of Transportation & Infrastructure should use leading practices to review and update the existing program design and then document all design elements of the Neighborhood Sidewalk Repair Program — including the overarching objective, specific program goals, performance measures, who is responsible for sidewalk maintenance and repairs, how the program is funded, coordination with other city agencies and utilities, and a plan for evaluating the program to ensure it meets the intended objectives and outcomes.

Agency Response: Agree, Implementation Date June 30, 2021

1.3 Evaluate Sidewalk Programs – The Department of Transportation & Infrastructure should evaluate how the Neighborhood Sidewalk Repair Program fits with — and should fit with — the city’s other sidewalk maintenance programs and transportation and infrastructure plans such as the Gap Program, complaint-based repairs, or the “Denver Moves” plan.

Agency Response: Agree, Implementation Date June 30, 2021

1.4 Review City Ordinance regarding Responsibility and Funding Obligations for Sidewalk Repairs – The Department of Transportation & Infrastructure should review city ordinance and assess whether the property owners’ responsibility and liability to maintain and repair sidewalks is reasonable and is the best approach to address the city’s needs. This should include reviewing the funding mechanisms for sidewalk repair. The department should document this decision-making process and, as needed, work with appropriate parties to amend the ordinance.

Agency Response: Agree, Implementation Date Dec. 31, 2021

1.5 Incorporate ADA Compliance into Program Redesign – The Department of Transportation & Infrastructure should ensure the redesign of the Neighborhood Sidewalk Repair Program requires that repair work comply with Americans with Disabilities Act standards for accessible routes — including but not limited to those related to sidewalk width, passing space, cross-slope, and elevation changes.

Agency Response: Agree, Implementation Date June 30, 2021

1.6 Document Policies and Procedures – When redesigning the Neighborhood Sidewalk Repair Program, the Department of Transportation & Infrastructure should document policies and procedures for program implementation.

Agency Response: Agree, Implementation Date Sept. 30, 2021

2.1 Document Policies and Procedures for Inspections – The Department of Transportation & Infrastructure should document policies and procedures for the Neighborhood Sidewalk Repair Program inspector — including how to conduct both initial inspections and post-repair inspections — to promote consistency in sidewalk repairs.

Agency Response: Agree, Implementation Date March 31, 2021

2.2 Enforce ADA Standards and Department Regulations – The Department of Transportation & Infrastructure should monitor repairs done under the Neighborhood Sidewalk Repair Program to enforce compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act standards, as well as department rules and regulations for accessible sidewalks.

Agency Response: Agree, Implementation Date June 30, 2021

2.3 Require Permits for All Sidewalk Repairs – The Department of Transportation & Infrastructure should require homeowners to obtain permits for all sidewalk repair work as city ordinance requires.

Agency Response: Agree, Implementation Date June 30, 2021

2.4 Conduct New Analysis – The Department of Transportation & Infrastructure should conduct a new analysis of the sidewalk repair program inspections and repairs completed thus far in Region 1 compared to the total number of miles of city sidewalk and the estimated repairs needed, so it can determine an appropriate and achievable time frame for completing the Neighborhood Sidewalk Repair Program. The analysis should include a plan for delays (i.e., weather conditions, lack of cooperation with homeowners, etc.) and a plan for seeking adequate staffing and funding to support that new time frame.

Agency Response: Agree, Implementation Date Sept. 30, 2021

2.5 Track Data – The Department of Transportation & Infrastructure should track data related to the timeliness of inspections and repairs as well as the reasons for any delays, so it can monitor the program’s progress toward meeting completion time frames and collect information to enhance the design.

Agency Response: Agree, Implementation Date June 30, 2021

2.6 Review City Ordinance regarding Sidewalk Repair Processes – The Department of Transportation & Infrastructure should review city ordinance to ensure processes related to sidewalk repairs are reasonable and, as needed, work with appropriate parties to amend the ordinance. This should include reviewing:

  • Time frames for inspection, notification, appeals, repairs, and completion.

  • The department’s ability to extend repair deadlines or time frames on an ad hoc basis. The department should document this decision-making process.

Agency Response: Agree, Implementation Date – June 30, 2021

2.7 Enforce Compliance – The Department of Transportation & Infrastructure should enforce compliance with sidewalk repair time frames established in city ordinance.

Agency Response: Agree, Implementation Date April 30, 2021

2.8 Identify and Track Program Performance Data – The Department of Transportation & Infrastructure should identify the data and information necessary for it to monitor progress toward meeting objectives for the Neighborhood Sidewalk Repair Program. The department should leverage existing data and information systems to the extent possible to store and track program data.

Agency Response: Agree, Implementation Date May 31, 2021

2.9 Document Data Entry Policies and Procedures – The Department of Transportation & Infrastructure should document policies and procedures for data entry related to the Neighborhood Sidewalk Repair Program and review the data to ensure it is valid and reliable.

Agency Response: Agree, Implementation Date June 30, 2021

2.10 Monitor Program Performance Data – The Department of Transportation & Infrastructure should periodically monitor data and information regarding the Neighborhood Sidewalk Repair Program to ensure performance measures and program objectives are being met and to make decisions related to programmatic changes.

Agency Response: Agree, Implementation Date April 30, 2021

2.11 Document Financial Policies and Procedures – The Department of Transportation & Infrastructure should document financial policies and procedures for identifying and reconciling payments made to the city’s contractors and ensure these policies and procedures align with the city’s fiscal rules and that accurate payments are made with supporting documentation.

Agency Response: Agree, Implementation Date April 30, 2021

2.12 Assess Homeowner Payment Process – When evaluating the design of the Neighborhood Sidewalk Repair Program, the Department of Transportation & Infrastructure should conduct a needs assessment to determine the appropriateness of billing homeowners based on repair estimates versus the actual cost of repairs, and department officials should document their decision in a policy.

Agency Response: Agree, Implementation Date April 30, 2021

2.13 Enforce Homeowner Payment Process – The Department of Transportation & Infrastructure should follow departmental procedures to collect homeowners’ payments for sidewalk repairs in a timely fashion or forward the delinquent accounts to the city’s Treasury Division for collections.

Agency Response: Agree, Implementation Date April 30, 2021

The objective of our audit of the Department of Transportation & Infrastructure’s Neighborhood Sidewalk Repair Program was to determine the program’s efficiency and effectiveness and how equitably it serves Denver residents. I am pleased to present the results of this audit.

The audit revealed Transportation & Infrastructure needs to improve the design of the Neighborhood Sidewalk Repair Program. That includes ensuring it complies with Americans with Disabilities Act standards for safe and accessible sidewalks and that it considers equal access to affordability options for homeowners. Additionally, the audit found Transportation & Infrastructure personnel had not effectively implemented, monitored, or evaluated the program to ensure it met its intended goals.

By implementing recommendations to evaluate the overall program and its objectives, to use leading practices to document the program’s design, and to implement stronger policies and procedures for program evaluation and monitoring, the Department of Transportation & Infrastructure will be better equipped to ensure the program operates effectively and provides a safe and accessible sidewalk network for all Denver residents.

This performance audit is authorized pursuant to the City and County of Denver Charter, Article V, Part 2, Section 1, “General Powers and Duties of Auditor.” We conducted this performance audit in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.

We extend our appreciation to the personnel in the Department of Transportation & Infrastructure who assisted and cooperated with us during the audit. For any questions, please feel free to contact me at 720- 913-5000.

Follow-up report

A follow-up report is forthcoming. 

Audit Team: Katja E. V. Freeman, Kharis Eppstein, Shaun Wysong, Darrell Finke, Daniel Summers, Megan Kelly, McKenzi Cantlon