Sidewalks Hazards and Inspection Program

State laws place responsibility to maintain a safe sidewalk system on its municipalities. The City has, in turn, placed the financial responsibility to maintain the sidewalks to the abutting property owner. Report any hazardous public sidewalks to the Engineering Division who will inspect and notify the abutting property owner to replace the defective section of sidewalk.

Standards for Defective Sidewalks/Approaches

  1. Vertical or horizontal separations equal to or greater than 3/4".
  2. Holes or depressions equal to or greater than 3/4".
  3. Spalling over fifty (50%) percent of a single square with a depression equal to or greater than 3/4".
  4. A single square cracked into more than three (3) pieces OR sections distorted equal to or greater than 3/4".
  5. Sidewalk is raised (or depressed) more than 2" in an 8’ - 10’ length from the normal grade of the sidewalk.
  6. Water stop box is raised or down equal to or greater than the 3/4" and/or lid is cracked or missing.
  7. Any other condition deemed hazardous by the City Engineer. 

Sidewalk Inspection Program

The City of Dubuque’s comprehensive and ongoing Sidewalk Inspection Program was implemented in 1989. Each year, City Engineering staff inspect approximately 10-12 miles of sidewalk. The abutting property owner is notified by certified mail of any defective conditions in the sidewalks and approaches discovered during the inspection and of the date by which the repairs must be completed. If requested, a 60-day extension for the repair work may be granted in some cases.

If property owner fails to complete the required work within the time required, the City will cause the work to be performed by City contractors and the cost of the work will be assessed against the abutting property for collection in the same manner as a property tax.


What prompted the City to implement a Sidewalk Inspection Program?       
The inspection program was initiated in response to a lawsuit against the City in a sidewalk case which ruled that City’s have a duty to inspect their sidewalks, and may be found negligent if they do not have an ongoing inspection program. The enabling City Ordinance was passed on October 3, 1988. In the past, the City relied on citizen input, police incident reports, and chance observation by City employees.

What areas are to be inspected, and how is the route determined?
Public sidewalks in the vicinity of public buildings and facilities were the first to be inspected and replaced. When the Sidewalk Inspection Program was initially implemented, we inspected high pedestrian streets, and streets located around schools. Currently we are getting into more residential areas. Eventually, all sidewalks throughout the City will be inspected.

When do inspections take place? Who does the inspections?
Inspections are performed during the spring, summer and fall of each year. There is one full-time inspector.

How many streets are inspected each year?
Each year the City inspects approximately 10-12 miles of sidewalk.

What types of defects are marked during an inspection? 
The City is essentially looking for tripping hazards. (Standards for Defective Sidewalks/Approaches are listed above in the hazardous sidewalks section above).

How do I know if my property has been inspected?
If you are on the current year inspection program, you will be sent an advance notification letter
advising of the approximate month your street will be inspected. At the time of inspection, if you have defects, they will be marked in white paint by an Inspector. A door tag advising that an inspection was done will be left at your residence. In a few days you will receive a certified notice advising of defects and giving you additional information on how to proceed.

What if there is a tree causing the defect in the sidewalk?
Trees located between the sidewalk and the curbs are also owned by the City. It is the City’s intent to save as many trees as possible. The City Forester will inspect the tree and-make a determination if that tree should be removed or worked around. If the decision is to remove the tree, it will be done at City cost. The property owner would then be required to replace the sidewalk at their cost. If it is directed by the City Forester to work around the tree, an inspector will work with the property owner and/or contractor on various modifications of the sidewalk. If it is determined that the tree will not be removed, and the tree damages the sidewalk in the future, the City will then remove the tree and replace the sidewalk at City cost.

How long does the property owner have to make the repairs?
Initially the property owner is given thirty (30) days to make the repairs. An extension of sixty (60) days can be obtained if the property owner signs an Indemnity Agreement stating that in consideration for the extension of time, the property owner will defend, indemnify and hold harmless the City of Dubuque, its officers, agents and employees, from any and all claims of any kind arising out of the defects in the public sidewalk until such time as the defects are repaired.

Is there any financial assistance available to help defray the cost of sidewalk maintenance?
Financial assistance is available through Community Development Block Grants to owner-occupied properties who meet specific income guidelines.

What happens if a property owner does not perform required work? 
The City is authorized to contract this work, and the cost will be assessed against your property in the same manner as property taxes

Who can perform the required work?
A licensed, insured contractor may perform this work. A property owner can also perform the work themselves. In either instance, City of Dubuque Standard Specifications must be complied with, and a permit obtained.

Property owners with any additional questions concerning the Sidewalk Inspection Program may contact the the City of Dubuque Engineering Department or call 563.589.4270.