Los Angeles agrees to spend $1 billion to fix sidewalks

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The City Council on Wednesday agreed to spend more than $1 billion over 30 years to repair its sidewalks, settling a lawsuit filed by disabled residents who said they couldn’t navigate broken walkways, potholed crosswalks and curbs that lacked wheelchair ramps.

If a federal judge approves the deal, it would end a 4 ½-year-old dispute that had stalled city plans to make much-needed repairs. The city has estimated that more than 40 percent of its 10,750 miles of walkways need work.

The agreement “will improve access and safety, and boost property values and neighborhood pride,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

Most of the money is expected to come from the city’s general fund operating budget.

The lawsuit contended that the city violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. The repairs will affect more than 200,000 residents who have disabilities involving their mobility, said Guy Wallace, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

“It will install curb ramps throughout the city, fix sidewalks that are broken and torn up by tree roots, install accessible sidewalks where they do not exist, and remove many other barriers,” Wallace said in a statement.

Under the settlement, the city would spend $31 million a year for 30 years on sidewalk projects beginning in 2015. The amount would be adjusted for inflation and the total commitment could hit about $1.4 billion.

Details of the repair program have not yet been worked out.

The proposed settlement was praised by Councilman Paul Krekorian, chair of the Budget and Finance Committee.

“For decades, buckled sidewalks have plagued neighborhoods from the San Fernando Valley to the South Bay,” he said in a statement. “All of that is going to change starting today with the city’s historic commitment to fix our sidewalks and make them accessible to everyone.”

The fixes also could reduce the number of sidewalk-injury claims, which cost the city about $5 million annually, City News Service reported.

The California Department of Transportation settled a similar lawsuit in 2009. Caltrans agreed to spend about $1 billion over 30 years to fix sidewalks and other facilities controlled by the state.

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