MUCKRAKING ALERT: Detroit spent $45 million on sidewalk ramps to nowhere while sinking into debt

SidewalksThe city of Detroit can’t afford to keep most of its fire stations open. The over-strapped police department often fails to show up to emergencies. And nearly half of the city’s 88,000 streetlights don’t work.

But that didn’t stop the city from spending nearly $45 million on more than 27,000 curb ramps for people with disabilities.

Two years after the city dished out the tax dollars to install the ramps, the Motor City Muckraker examined the whereabouts of thousands of the curb cuts. Here’s what we found:

  • Many of the ramps were installed on sidewalks that are impassable because of overgrowth or collapsed homes.
  • Dozens of curb cuts were found on blocks with no occupied houses.
  • Nearly a quarter of the ramps were improperly installed, damaging sidewalks and property.

“No one ever uses these sidewalks,” Aaron Morgan said of the curb cuts near his house that were installed by the abandoned Packard Plant on the city’s east side. “It’s a joke.”

So how’d this happen? A judge ordered Detroit to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act by installing ramps at intersections for people with disabilities in 2005. Prior to that, the city had improperly installed thousands of curb cuts.

A source in Mayor Dave Bing’s administration said the curb cuts were a colossal waste of money and should have been challenged.

Check out these sidewalks to nowhere. Click on the first photo to begin the slideshow.

All photos by Steve Neavling. 

Got tips or suggestions? Contact Steve at 

Steve Neavling, who lives on the city’s east side, is an investigative journalist, a freelance reporter for Reuters and former city hall reporter for the Detroit Free Press. Neavling explores corruption, Detroit’s unsung heroes and the underbelly of an oft-misunderstood city.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for daily updates, investigations, photos and videos of the Motor City. 

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.