The city of Sofia is launching an extensive sidewalk renewal programme. Over the next four years, more than 690,000 square metres will be renovated in an effort to improve walking conditions throughout Bulgaria’s capital.
Years of underinvestment and poor maintenance have left sidewalks in a deplorable state in many areas in the city. Subsidence, extreme weather conditions, overgrown tree roots and utility works have affected the quality of the sidewalk, making it a challenge at times for even the most light-heeled walkers to keep on their feet. In addition, the patchworks of quick repairs of varying quality, which have been created in many streets not only affect the quality for pedestrians, but also that of urban design.
In order to address the situation, the city is launching a large-scale programme for repair and construction of sidewalks. Sofia’s Yayor, Yordanka Fandakova, explained: “Pedestrian accessibility is extremely important for the comfort and safety of citizens, mothers with wheelchairs and people with disabilities. The other purpose of the standard is a clearer guarantee of quality and control of repairs. We want to encourage more people to leave their cars and move on foot”.
The programme aims to improve nearly 10% of the total pedestrian area of the capital. The total cost of the project is 60 million EUR, of which 50 million EUR is to be financed by a loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB), and the remaining 10 million EUR will be provided from the municipal budget.
Although the project can count on the support of the vast majority of the city council, including the largest opposition parties, some concerns have also been raised, in particular about site selection and quality management.
Some 30% of the funds will be directed to all 24 sub-municipalities in the city. The sub-municipalities will have to decide the specific locations, where priority should be given to streets that house the most people according to the municipal register. The Sofia Municipality also recently adopted an ordinance on the urban environment, which provides a technical standard for pavements in pedestrian areas. This should increase the quality and a uniform approach.
Part of the funds are reserved for technical assistance and monitoring. Mayor Yordanka Fandakova will report on the progress and quality of work on the project every three months.
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