“Before 2005, the city never had any real program to monitor and inspect sidewalks,” recalls former city project manager Homayoon Pirooz. But in 2004, the Center for Independent Living sued, arguing that bumpy sidewalks and steep ramps discriminated against people with disabilities. In a 2005 settlement, the city promised to inspect every sidewalk within five years.

Under the law in effect at the time, the bill for fixing them fell on adjacent property owners. By 2011, citizens had replaced an estimated 47,000 five-foot-square sidewalk slabs.

That fall, voters approved a new sidewalk repair millage. Since the city took over the work, it’s paid contractors about $2 million to replace another 9,000 or so slabs, and grind down raised joints–called “toe stubbers”–on 4,500 more.

According to the city’s Geographic Information System, there are approximately 345 miles of public concrete sidewalk in Ann Arbor. Though tree roots, heavy traffic, and salt pose perils, most is very durable: “Some slabs are eighty years old,” spokesman Robert Kellar notes, “and may be fine for another eighty years.”

By the time the millage expires in 2016, Kellar says, the city will have re-inspected all of its sidewalks and made all necessary repairs. Builder Joe O’Neal, for one, welcomes the change. “I like the new program versus the old,” he emails. “Now, if only they could smooth out the street.”