The high-speed fiber internet boom that began in 2015 launched a flurry of private infrastructure construction that left many of Atlanta’s streets and sidewalks pockmarked and potholed. Recently, the City of Atlanta’s Department of Public Works and Midtown Green have netted some wins in their partnership to identify and trace poorly executed sidewalk patches and streamline the restoration process for future projects. Meanwhile, surface street conditions are still needing more attention in many areas.
The City of Atlanta implemented a two-week moratorium on new dig work earlier this year that allowed for much of the sidewalk restoration to catch up to the boom in construction. Another moratorium specific to street lane closures for construction is expected to precede the Super Bowl.
An example of improper sidewalk repair (left) shows where the concrete was left unrestored after cutting. Correct sidewalk restoration requires replacing any affected panels from expansion joint to expansion joint (right).
Just Below the Surface
Beneath the streets and sidewalks, a vast network of pipes and cables provide water, gas, electricity and internet to Midtown business and residents. In order to access the infrastructure for repairs and updates, utility companies — and their contractors and subcontractors — have to rip up sidewalks and streets, often displacing pedestrians, creating noise and affecting traffic flow.
City code requires permits and follow-up inspections for this type of work, but the large volume of permitted projects led to stretched City oversight and, with it, negligent repair work.
When streets are not repaired correctly (left), the temporary patches and missing traffic striping can lead to unsafe conditions for drivers. Correct street restoration (right) includes repaving the full width of the affected lane and repainting any traffic striping.
The Good, The Bad And The Messy
Midtown Green Project Manager Kyle Guess noticed the uptick in disruptive, fiber-related construction in Midtown around 2016. It is not uncommon for the same stretch of sidewalk to be patched by one communication company only to be ripped up the next day by a different contractor, Guess said.
“Midtown is one of the fastest growing centers for technology and innovation,” said Guess. “While new development and infrastructure are exciting, it’s our job to make sure that everyday projects like sidewalk repairs and street restoration aren’t getting overlooked.”
Thus far in 2018, Midtown Green has cataloged 38 permits from communication companies that affect the right of way in the Midtown Improvement District. As a result, Midtown Alliance is collaborating with the City to educate contractor crews on proper sidewalk restoration and street repair. “By teaming up with the City’s Department of Public Works, we’re able to open the lines of communication with utility and construction companies and work to hold the right people accountable for the fixes,” Guess said.
There’s still a long way to go on street repairs in Midtown, where construction and digging have caused potholes, and in some cases sinkholes. Midtown Green continues to catalog these and inform the City. If you see damaged streets or sidewalks that appear to not be part of an active construction site, send concerns to the Department of Public Works and the Department of Watershed Management by dialing 3-1-1 or via the ATL311 mobile app.