US Federal Highway Admin Guidelines For Preserving Pedestrian Facilities

US Federal Highway Admin Guidelines For Preserving Pedestrian Facilities

The US Federal Highway Administration created a 15-year plan, completed in 2010, in order to increase pedestrian safety through proper maintenance of pedestrian facilities. Guidelines are broken down based upon surface types.  In this article we focus on the guidelines surrounding concrete and asphalt sidewalks and walkways. Concrete remains the most common type of surface material for sidewalks, while asphalt remains the most common material for shared use paths, or areas that serve as both walkways and roadways.

Regardless of materials, pedestrian walkways should be carefully maintained in order to ensure public safety, as well as the safety of your business. If someone is injured on your property you may be liable. Keeping up with regular maintenance can help reduce a lot of liability risk.

Common Concrete & Asphalt Maintenance Issues That Must Be Addressed

Many common issues impact pedestrian walkways and without proper treatment these problems only increase in severity, as well as the cost to fix them. There are two different types of infrastructure issues: surfacing problems and structural problems. Both require maintenance and repairs. While most structural defects are caused by surface conditions, there are varieties that are not.

The most common defects include cracking, heaving, tilting, gaps and sidewalk and path sections that are depressed or raised. The Institute for Research in Construction of the Canadian National Research Council identified four main sidewalk issues:

Rigid Body Uplift or Settlement

If concrete slabs rise, tilt or sink it is often the result of expanding soils, thermal expansion of the concrete slab, freeze and thaw cycles or improper subgrade compaction.

Tensile Shrinkage

When moisture in the surrounding soil decreases it leads to shrinkage and ultimately deformation of surfaces.


If the center of the walkway has a larger thaw settlement than the edges, or surrounding soil swells considerably around the edges, it leads to unequal movement of slabs. The result is longitudinal cracking, often referred to as sagging when the path subsides and an entire slab or set of slabs fall beneath the initial grade.

Raised, Heaved or Hogging

Frost heave or upward vertical movement caused by expanding soils near the center of the sidewalk leads to uneven movement of the slab. As a result, longitudinal cracking occurs. Raised pavements may also be related to surrounding tree roots.

If any of the above occurs to concrete or asphalt walkways it needs to be addressed as soon as possible. You will either need to make appropriate spot repairs or remove and replace entire sections.

Cracking is the most common issue of all since all concrete is going to crack at some point in time. There are methods to help postpone inevitable cracking, such as manually finishing cracking at joints, or making cuts as the surface is curing. The majority of maintenance issues relate to uncontrolled cracking. The most common types of cracks impacting sidewalks include longitudinal, edge and alligator cracking.

Curb Ramps & Crosswalks

When making repairs to sidewalks it’s important to pay keen attention to curb ramps and crosswalks, which are often overlooked but shouldn’t be. Curb ramps serve as a safe transition from the sidewalk to street crossings; allowing pedestrians to get where they need to go without stepping up or down.

Curb ramps are mandated under accessibility laws. New curb ramps must have detectable warning fields; the modern day standard is truncated domes. These are placed in the concrete as cast iron or stainless steel plates. While they make curbs safer they can lead to safety hazards if they chip away or become displaced. Close attention must be paid to necessary maintenance in order to prevent avoidable accidents.

Crosswalks also require special attention to detail when it comes to regular maintenance. The one thing you don’t want to overlook is the need to repaint crosswalks a few times each year to ensure they are visible during daylight and at night. These markings should not be slippery or interfere with traction.

Learn more about the guidelines regarding curb ramps here:

Seasonal Maintenance

The Federal Highway Administration has a separate set of guidelines for seasonal maintenance. Snowfall, leaves and debris as well as overgrown vegetation can all present unique safety concerns regarding pedestrian roadways and sidewalks. All areas should be kept clean and free of debris throughout the year. These obligations are further reinforced by the Americans with Disabilities Act, which specifies that all public facilities must be readily accessible by people with disabilities.

How To Keep Public Walkways & Roadways Up To Standards

Keeping up with regular maintenance and repairs ensures the safety of the public as well as the safety of your business or organization. Allow the proven experts at Kleenco Construction to help keep your walkways as safe as possible all year round with our superior maintenance, repairs and construction.