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Sofia has many pedestrian only public spaces scattered around the city

Sofia will replace 690,000 sq m of battered sidewalks

Sofia will replace 690,000 sq m of battered sidewalks

Despite wide support, critics of the bill point out that it lacks clear criteria for which sidewalks will take priority, as well as a clear policy for quality control

Today, local authorities in Sofia announced a new massive investment of 60 million euros into the city’s sidewalk infrastructure. The funding will be directed to all 24 sub-municipalities in the city and will cover approximately 690 thousand square metres of sidewalks.

Around a sixth of the bill will be funded by the municipal budget and the rest should come from a loan by the European Investment Bank.

The programme was passed in the local council with more than a two-thirds majority with the three biggest parties all throwing their support behind it. This includes GERB, the party of Mayor Yordanka Fandakova, as well as the main opposition in the face of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the liberal Democratic Bulgaria.

sidewalks in sofiaMany sidewalks in the city are in desperate need of repair,
Source: Krasimir Svrakov, Brand Media Bulgaria 

A breath of fresh air or maybe nothing at all

A lot of the sidewalks in Sofia’s neighbourhoods have been neglected for years, some rocking asphalt and pavement from the 1980s when Bulgaria was still ruled by a Communist dictatorship. Gas, sewage and internet infrastructure expansion, as well as overgrown tree roots, over the past 30 years have done little to solve the issue, as sidewalks have become a patchwork of quick fixes from different eras.

In fact, the issue became so contentious that it was a major talking point during the last municipal elections, with various candidates proposing schemes to renovate the Bulgarian capital’s sidewalks. And this is what this programme promises to do.

door and sidewalkSome sidewalks have not been redone since the 1980s 

New pavement, ramps for parents with buggies and people with disabilities, as well as tactile surfaces for the blind. Furthermore, supposedly that funding will not be concentrated in a few affluent areas, instead - reaching all the city’s districts.

Despite the widespread support, the programme is not without its critics. One of the loudest voices against it is the independent activist and City Councillor Boris Bonev. Bonev went to social media to explain his position, saying that the bill lacks a detailed list of streets that will undergo renovations or criteria on how they will be picked out.

Furthermore, he said that the municipality lacks standards for quality sidewalks and this is a problem because of their shaky track record with previous projects.

sidewalk runenrUsually, pedestrians have to navigate a crosscut, cable-ridden, shaky and uneven surface - a sidewalk only by name,
Source: Krassimir Svrakov, Brand Media Bulgaria

The chairman of the Local Council, Georgi Georgiev, explained that quality control is a big concern for these development funds and this is why the city council will distribute an additional 360,000 euros to the sub-municipalities so that they can hire experts to oversee the projects.

Additionally, the specific locations of redevelopment will be chosen by the sub-municipalities, with priority going to those that support more people. This concrete decision will be made based on the registered citizen’s address.

Furthermore, every three months, Mayor Fandakova will report on the progress of the initiative.  

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