In response to a critique by columnist Shoshana Hoose, there have been several letters recently on the hazards of brick sidewalks, with a call for their replacement. Portland’s downtown has 14 miles of mostly brick sidewalks, and replacement costs (±$5.80 per square foot) could easily exceed $2 million.

Kentucky architect and architectural conservator Gary Kleier notes that although a concrete sidewalk is initially a third the cost of a brick one, brick costs significantly less over its lifetime.

To repair displaced concrete around a tree would likely require several days, the use of heavy equipment and moving multiple slabs. With a brick sidewalk, the same repair can be done for a fraction of the cost, in far less time and with minimal noise and traffic disruption.

In Salem, Massachusetts, another historic waterfront city, brick work is considered an integral part of the streetscape.

Working with a popular city program, residents get approval to repair “damaged, poorly maintained or long-since-forgotten brick sidewalks,” according to a recent article in the daily Salem News. They get the bricks they need free of charge and pay to have a skilled contractor do the work.

The city of Portland does not have deep pockets, and scheduled upgrades are a workable alternative to tearing out restorable sidewalks.

A brick sidewalk near my home was beautifully redone and is now easy to walk on. On ice I use Yaktrax ice and snow cleats and due caution on any surface. In fact, out of the three sidewalk falls that I remember, two were caused by the raised edge of a concrete slab.

Margot McCain