William M. Browder
|October 27, 2002|
ARCHITECTURAL AND TRANSPORTATION BARRIERS COMPLIANCE BOARD
DOCKET NO. 02-1: ADA ACCESSIBILITY GUIDELINES FOR
BUILDINGS AND FACILITIES; ABA ACCESSIBILITY GUIDELINES;
William M. Browder
The following comments are submitted addressing the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board's (Access Board) draft guidelines on accessibility in public rights-of-way. The comments are limited to highway-railroad grade crossing issues presented by the draft guidelines.
Proposed Section 1103.7 -- Flangeway Gaps
Proposed section 1103.7 provides that where pedestrian access routes cross railroad rights-of-way at grade, the horizontal gap at the inner edge of each rail shall not exceed 2½ inches, 3 inches in the case of freight railroads. Current draft guidelines of this provision are acceptable to this nation’s railroads safety of operations. I am well aware of the Access Board's desire that the gap be no more than ½ inches to prevent the trapping of wheelchair casters, but a ½-inch gap could cause railroad derailments.
Recognizing that a gap of 2½ inches, 3 inches for freight operations, is needed to accommodate the wheels on freight equipment, the Access Board has been hopeful that a filler could be developed that would provide a ½-inch gap when railroad freight equipment is not moving along the grade crossing, but expand to provide the necessary 2½ inch or 3 inch gap when railroad freight equipment moves across the grade crossing. However, as the Access Board notes, "[a]ttempts have been made to develop a "gap filler" device, but none of those devices have been successful." Furthermore, as the Access Board notes, "it is not possible to reliably predict when research may find a solution."
The maximum gap sizes of 2½ and 3 inches should apply, as the Access Board as proposed, at the time of construction. Normal wear of the flangeway surfaces will result in a slightly wider gap over time.
Access Board should support and encourage the research by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) to solve the flangeway gap problem. A TRB committee on grade crossings has recommended research. Further, it is undertood that USDOT is considering support for research in this area.
Proposed Sections 1102.3 and 1111 -- Obstruction of Pedestrian Access
Proposed section 1102.3 provides that whenever a pedestrian access route is blocked by a temporary condition, such as closing for construction or maintenance, an alternate "circulation path" shall be provided. Technical specifications for the alternate path are contained in proposed section 1111.
The problem with the wording of this section is that an alternate circulation path at grade crossings often will not be feasible or, if feasible, compliance with the technical requirements of section 1111 might not be possible. There simply may not be any place an alternate path can be constructed. Grade crossings are of limited width. If an alternate path is feasible, the technical requirements of section 1111 might be problematic. For example, a solid wall or fence might present visibility problems.
Consequently, it is proposed that section 1102.3 be amended to provide that an alternate circulation path be constructed where feasible and that compliance with section 1111 also be conditioned on feasibility. It also is suggested that if an alternate circulation path is not feasible, then instructions on alternatives available for crossing the right of way should be provided. For example, if there is a nearby location where a pedestrian could cross, the location could be posted at the closed crossing.
Accordingly, the following amendments are proposed:
1. Amend section 1102.3 by inserting at the beginning of the first sentence, "Where feasible, an," and adding a new second sentence as follows:
If an alternate circulation path is infeasible, then signs shall be provided instructing pedestrians on available alternatives.
2. Amend section 1111 by inserting at the beginning of section 1111.1 the following: "To the extent feasible, alternate . . . ."
Proposed Sections 1103.8 and 1103.8.1: Changes in Level
The flangeway between rails provides a break in the level of the crossing path. Consequently, grade crossings do not comply with section 1103.8, addressing changes in level. While section 1103.8.1 specifically addresses the surface of pedestrian access routes at grade crossings, that section, too, omits any reference to flangeway gaps.
Accordingly, it is suggested that sections 1103.8 and 1103.8.1 be amended as follows:
1. Amend section 1103.8 by inserting in the title after "Level" the following: "(Except at Rail Crossings)."
2. Amend section 1103.8.1 by inserting after "route" the following: ", except for the horizontal gap at the inner edge of each rail,."
William M. Browder
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