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Sidewalk Installation Guidelines and Policy

Sidewalk Construction Guidelines and Policy - man in a yello hard hat smooting a wet concrete sidewalk with a trowel

Nationally recognized guidelines for street and highway design recommend that sidewalks be constructed in areas with pedestrian activity, especially in residential and school areas. Federal policy dictates that, “… walking facilities will be incorporated into all transportation projects unless exceptional circumstances exist” (FHWA, 2000). The Federal Highway Administration urges state and local jurisdictions to revise programs to better construct and maintain an accessible pedestrian network.

For more information on federal policies and requirements at Integrating Pedestrians into the Project Planning Process.

3.2.1  Sidewalk Installation

When land-use plans have development activities (e.g., business and residential areas and school trips), pedestrian activities should be anticipated. Accessible design is a requirement and does not depend on the number of users. Practice in accessible design should be as advanced as vehicle usage design. When sidewalks are not available, pedestrians are forced to share the street with motorists, access to public transportation is restricted, and children have fewer play areas that are safe. Therefore, whenever possible, accessible sidewalks should be provided. The following guidelines have been established to assist local jurisdictions with determining when and where pedestrian facilities are needed, Planning, Design, and Operation of Pedestrian Facilities: Unpublished Draft Final Report (2000), NCHRP, Project 15-20, TRB, Washington, DC):

Develop sidewalks as integral parts of all city streets;

  • If landuse plans anticipate pedestrian activity, construct sidewalks as part of street development
  • Sidewalks should connect nearby urban communities
  • Provide sidewalks in rural and suburban areas at schools, local businesses, and industrial plants that result in pedestrian concentrations
  • Provide sidewalks whenever the roadside and land development conditions are such that pedestrians regularly move along a main or high-speed highway
  • Incorporate sidewalks in rural areas with higher traffic speeds and general absence of lighting
  • Construct sidewalks along any street or highway without shoulders, even if there is light pedestrian traffic

To initiate the sidewalk installation guidelines above, and to promote accessible sidewalk facilities, municipalities should consider the following recommendations:

  • Agencies should only accept bids from contractors who understand and construct accessible facilities
  • Require employees and contractors to demonstrate their knowledge of accessibility topics. If at any stage of the development process (i.e., planning, design, or installation) accessibility is not addressed, hold the responsible party accountable, and make improvements
  • Engineering, transportation, and public policy decision-makers should partner with transit providers on projects and programs, and require that transit systems include accessible pedestrian facilities
  • Consult with representatives from disability agencies and organizations during all phases of project development
  • Include people with disabilities in the first phases of programming, planning, designing, operating, and constructing pedestrian facilities (see Section 3.8)
  • Agencies should ensure that accessibility guidelines are followed throughout the planning, the project development, and construction of pedestrian facilities.


There shall be a sidewalk on at least one side of every street or roadway where pedestrians are legally permitted in the District of Columbia. 

  1. For road segments that lack sidewalks on both sides of the street, roadway reconstruction, a curb and gutter installation, or curb and gutter replacement projects shall include the installation of a sidewalk on at least one side of the street.
  2. For roadways that are missing sidewalks, but where no major construction project is currently planned, new sidewalk installation shall be prioritized for school areas, routes that provide access to parks and recreational facilities, transit stops, locations where the absence of a sidewalk creates substantial pedestrian safety risks, and roadway segments for which residents petitioned to have sidewalks.

The following shall apply when DDOT is planning to install new sidewalk:

  1. DDOT shall provide notice to affected parties, the affected Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, and the Councilmembers of the affected wards, before designing and constructing new sidewalks.
  2. DDOT shall design sidewalks in a manner that preserves the health of existing trees wherever possible.
  3. DDOT shall consider pervious materials for the design and construction of sidewalks whenever feasible.

DDOT may be exempted from the requirements of this policy upon a written determination by the Director that it is impractical or unnecessary to install a sidewalk.


To provide guidance and recommendations regarding sidewalk construction.


DDOT Sidewalk Installation Guidelines and Policy - 2015

Sidewalk Repair

Pedestrian Master Plan

Washington, DC, will be a city where any trip can be taken on foot safely and comfortably, and where roadways equally serve pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users and motorists. To this end, the District has undertaken efforts to comply with national policy, including the development of the Pedestrian Master Plan (2009), and the construction of various street projects throughout the city.

DDOT Pedestrian Master Plan 2009

Walking has been a fundamental part of everyday travel in Washington, DC from the City’s initial design by Pierre L’Enfant in 1791.