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Why do vaulted sidewalks collapse?

On Behalf of | Nov 29, 2021 | Personal Injury

Chicago has come a long way in its roughly 188 years as a city. Early in the city’s life, residents had to contend with muddy streets and a cholera outbreak. To improve both situations, officials chose to raise many of Chicago’s streets. Raising the streets, of course, required raising the sidewalks.

Today, some of the Windy City’s public walkways are five feet above previous street levels. This leaves an empty space, known as a vault, beneath your feet. While rare, it is possible for vaulted sidewalks to collapse.

Inspection is key

According to reporting from ABC News, a construction worker died recently when a vaulted sidewalk in the heart of Chicago collapsed on him. While the cause of the collapse is not yet clear, maintenance issues commonly cause vaulted sidewalks to cave in.

To keep sidewalks ice-free during the city’s notoriously cold winters, city workers and business owners routinely apply salt. When melted salt mixes with water, it makes a corrosive compound that can weaken the steel rebar that holds concrete together.  If officials do not regularly inspect vaulted sidewalks for rust and corrosion, a collapse may be imminent.

Maintenance must be a priority

Weather events, shifting soil and construction projects may also cause vaulted sidewalks to degrade and eventually to fail. While the city should inspect vaulted sidewalks regularly, maintenance must also be a priority. If necessary, city workers should close sidewalks until they can complete repairs. Construction managers should also take steps to protect their workers.

A vaulted sidewalk may collapse with little or no notice. Ultimately, if you suffer a serious injury when walking on a raised sidewalk or working on one, you may be eligible for substantial financial compensation.