Many of the downtown sidewalks in Tallahassee, Fla., were cracked, sloping, and in need of an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) upgrade; but the city also wanted to create a sense of “place” for unique areas such as Tallahassee’s historic district. The challenge was to create an original, attractive sidewalk that both city staff and downtown businesses could agree on, while also making it easy for in-house city crews to maintain afterward.

The Tallahassee Public Works Department contracted local father-and-son team D&T Construction to create a tooled diamond pattern, scored with an edging tool. The design enhances key areas while still meeting the hilly terrain’s tricky grade differences; some of the roads have more than an 8% slope. The real challenge, however, was the cross slopes. The crew:

  • Broom-finished the pavement and smooth-edged the joints.
  • Addressed elevation differences between the sidewalks and building doorways with decorative entrance “enhancements” such as aprons and steps.
  • Eliminated edged joints and border edging in historic areas, making the pattern simpler to replicate.
  • Created steps, curbs, and elevated decorative flower beds to fix severe cross slope issues.
  • Did not tool driveway aprons, to keep the focus on the walkways.
  • Used simple concrete tools, including a 4 5/8-inch steel trowel and 4-inch and 6-inch edging tools, so the city’s in-house crews could recreate the patterns when having to replace portions of the sidewalk during future utility repairs.

The sidewalk design includes oddly shaped sections and has a 6-inch-wide edge, which is not ideal for controlled cracks, or saw cuts, that usually extend out to the curb. The city and contractors compensated for this potential for minor cracks by installing expansion joints across the sidewalk every 20 to 30 feet. They also poured the sidewalks 6 inches thick, instead of the 4-inch standard, to help the pavement better withstand foot and vehicular traffic.

When working on a public project around various local businesses, it’s also important to have good public relations skills, which the contractors exceled at. The city received letters of praise for their communication skills and work ethic.

Tallahassee now has sidewalks that both meet current ADA standards and provide some added character, which enables the downtown area to stand out from surrounding areas.

Submitted by David Earle, Tallahassee’s project manager/construction chief of capital programs. He can be reached at 850-891-8270 or [email protected].

For more on Tallahassee’s sidewalk renovation project, visit here.

Or contact: David Earle
Project Manager/Construction Chief
City of Tallahassee
Capital Programs
300 South Adams Street
Tallahassee, FL 32301

850-891-8270 [email protected]