Kansas City Takes Its Sidewalk Network More Seriously Than Denver

Photo: Clay Harmon
Photo: Clay Harmon

One of the remaining points of contention in Denver’s transportation bond coming up in November is the amount of funding for sidewalks. Mayor Michael Hancock has recommended $30 million for the citywide sidewalk network. If we really wanted to make progress on the city’s patchwork pedestrian infrastructure, we’d be aiming a lot higher. Like as high as Kansas City.

Yep, Kansas City. In April, voters there said yes to an $800 million bond measure, with $600 million reserved for streets, sidewalks, and bridges. That amount trumps the $415.5 million currently allocated to transportation in Denver’s bond package.

But what stands out even more is Kansas City’s allocation to sidewalks: $150 million. Right now Denver’s project list [PDF] includes just $30.7 million dollars for sidewalks. So even though our population is 40 percent bigger than Kansas City’s, Denver is proposing to spend only one-fifth as much on walking infrastructure.

An earlier draft of Denver’s project list included more for citywide sidewalks and bikeways before an executive committee slashed those funding levels. Hancock did not restore that funding before sending his spending recommendations to the City Council for final approval.

It’s up to council members to decide whether they’ll restore the sidewalk funding to the $49 million originally recommended, or even add to it, given the giant gulf between what the city needs and what it has.

Denver is missing sidewalks on more than a quarter of its streets, and needs $600 million to close the gap. It’s important to remember that the city does not have a long-term policy to fund or implement sidewalks, either. So this one-time infusion could be it for a while.

Advocates are asking residents to contact council members and the mayor and ask them to restore funding to sidewalks (and bikeways) — and they’ve made it easy for you.

The City Council will continue deliberations on Monday.