|October 28, 2002|
Re: Draft guidelines on Public Rights-of-Way Accessibility as proposed by the U.S. Access Board.
I wish to thank you for allowing myself and others an opportunity to provide comments on the set of Draft Guidelines on Accessible Public Rights-of-Way as proposed by the US Access Board.
I have reviewed the new guidelines, dated June 17, 2002, and I would like to make comments of concern on these guidelines. There is significant unintended consequences with many of the suggestions coming from the access board. There should be additional thought given to how the suggestions impact the whole community, rather than the impaired. Further thought should be given to the whole Nation and its’ terrain rather than a flat surface. The new regulations have to be stringent enough to enforce, yet flexible enough to provide the best solution in all situations. The access board has a difficult decision to make, whether to leave good roadway practices in place for vehicular safety or sacrifice these practices for the benefit of those with disabilities. Thoroughfares accommodating pedestrian traffic may need some design changes, but it is essential that traffic safety and proper vehicular traffic flow is not diminished.
The acquisition of additional right-of-way is a great idea, but the cost of necessary right-of-way to have fully compliant curb ramps will add $150.00 to $1,500.00 cost per ramp. All acquisitions have to have documentation and recorded easements or right of entry permits prior to construction. Most municipalities do not have the staff nor the funds to add to the existing burden of providing new ramps. Cities have a right-of-way widths that will handle acceptable sidewalk widths and allow compliant curb ramp installations in less than half of the planned curb ramp locations. Existing drainage and utilities prohibit compliance in the many of the locations surveyed.
If municipalities were able to obtain the easements or acquire necessary right-of-way with no cost to the tax payers, they would be able to have fully compliant ramps. Currently, narrow sidewalks, steep running grades and cross slopes, and insufficient right-of-way is the current major problem that hinders our goal for full compliance.
If the proposed guidelines and standards are too exacting and requires strict mandated regulation for attaining maximum compliance, some of the guidelines will not be attainable as accessible pedestrian corridors without excessive costs to developers and the City.
The roadways are intended to move vehicular traffic as efficiently as well as have sidewalks for pedestrians. Roadways should have president over pedestrian movement not pedestrian over vehicular movement. We may be able to have harmony in movements at most intersections, but not at all intersections because of topographical constraints. There are many existing streets with grades that range from 9% to 12%. The majority of the street intersections have pedestrian paths with cross slopes in the 1:96 to 1:20 range, mostly 1:40, and running slopes in the 0.4% to 5% range.
In historic areas the street cross slope may be in excess if 14%, though rare. These streets are generally resurfaced and maintained using the circa 1890-1920, parabolic crown. Some streets dating from 1845 have been flattened somewhat by adding asphalt or raising the gutter line, altering the curb height to less than five or six inches.
1102.3 Alternate Circulation Path.
This is to comply with 1111. When a roadway is closed in part or whole a safe alternate pedestrian route will be determined. Likewise for building renovation and/or construction, if the sidewalk must be closed, an alternate safe route will be defined. This route may be on the opposite side of the street or in may be a detour to the next parallel street that is accessible.
This paragraph refers to 1103 and must comply with chapter 11. 1103.3 requires a minimum clear width of 48 inches. In existing conditions the only accessible route may be 32 to 36 inches in width with no possible solution short of total reconstruction of the area.
1102.8 Pedestrian Crossings.
References 1105, specifically 1105.2.2 Cross Slope. The cross slope shall be 1:48 maximum measured perpendicular to the direction of pedestrian travel. This cross slope will cause a tabling effect that affects the vehicular travel as well as the street running grade. The Street running slope should be acceptable for everyone. On major streets the traffic volumes may be reduced in order to aid pedestrian movement if the crossings are made to 1:48 cross slopes. One side effect of this proposal is greater air pollution that may be added to significant unintended consequences with the proposed suggestions.
1102.14 On-Street Parking.
If this proposal is intended to include residential areas to have designated accessible parking, then, in some cases it is not feasible because of the existing short distances between street intersections. In the business districts, usually, insufficient sidewalk widths and structural problems do not allow provision for this proposal. The unintended consequences will be significant and costly.
Pedestrian overpasses and underpasses in their existing state are accessible routes. The sidewalks follow the running slopes of the street that are usually less than 6%. The need for elevators and platform lifts should be based on local area need, with some flexibility based on need rather than a cover-all regulation. The cost of installing 2 lifts or limited use elevators will add significantly to the cost of planned pedestrian accessible routes. The proposed regulation will cause some planned improvements to be discarded.
1103.3 Clear Width.
New construction should be able to readily accommodate this provision, but existing right-of-ways and street widths may severely limit the pedestrian path to 36 inches. In some areas the cost of additional right-of-way to provide this wider access path may not be feasible because of excessive costs related to property or easement acquisitions.
118.104.22.168 Cross Slope.
This proposed regulation will in effect cause problems with roadway drainage as well as with curb lane vehicular traffic when the street running slope is 1.5% or greater. The ramp will be warped to the street and sidewalk running grades which causes the rigid wheelchair frame to have three wheels on the ramp and one in the air. This much warp in the ramp to landing causes some mobility devices to tip over and spill the occupant to the pavement with possible injuries.
The 48 inch depth is not attainable in all circumstances. The cost of obtaining additional right-of-way or easement for the required depth of 48 inches is usually prohibitive. In existing conditions, very often there is insufficient right-of way to provide space for landings and ramps.
The 1:48 running slope works under ideal conditions, but varying intersection running grades at street intersections will cause unintended results that include drainage problems and vehicular traffic flow problems. The tabling effect at the foot of the ramp will cause unintended consequences.
122.214.171.124 Diverging Sidewalks.
Without further clarification as to the protection barrier size and where the drop-off is located, street side or back of sidewalk, makes this statement a possible conflict with traffic safety as well as pedestrian safety.
This proposed regulation may work well for new construction, but existing street intersections in most cities usually have utility access covers and power poles that prevent proper ramp construction. The cost to relocate these appurtenances to a fitting location out side the ramps and landings can cost in excess of $3,500.00 per ramp. If a utility grating needs moving or adjusting to provide ADAAG pedestrian access, the cost for engineering and construction soars to more than $40,000.00 per ramp. Needless to say a curb ramp will not be constructed at these locations.
1105.2 Cross Slope.
Pedestrian crossings on roadways intended for vehicular traffic should maintain the same uninterrupted grade as the roadway. The proposed changes to the crosswalk slope will cause a tabling effect that will cause unintended consequences. The majority of street intersections where pedestrian access paths are located will be between ⅛ inch to ˝ inch per foot. This paragraph could have significant bearing whether developers and property owners would bear the additional cost associated with compliance.
1105.2.3 Running Slope.
There are many existing intersections that cannot be adjusted to this criteria. The historic districts, for instance, often have slightly steeper grades. A steep grade of 14% with a travel distance of 8 feet is one of the steepest found to date.
1105.5 Pedestrian Overpasses and Underpasses.
Having to provide an elevator for every location that meets the proposed criteria is not feasible in most communities. However, because of increased project costs, construction of these facilities should be done with combined efforts of the disabled community and the municipality. The decision to fund a projects as well as where the project is located according to several factors may cause the project to be dropped from an improvement program. Construction of these facilities have to be funded and once these facilities are operational, they must be properly maintained. The cost of repairs due to vandalism is another concern for not constructing elevators.
The installation of an underpass at any location should be done in accordance with area need, based on potential user input. In some locations the underpass has the potential for flooding and water reaches a depth of 4 to 5 feet which presents a maintenance problem for the elevators. If the pedestrian path is designed to have the lifts above the flood line there is the consideration for landings and handrails near the curb line of the roadway.
Continuous barriers should not be considered as a way to channelize pedestrians. Everyone in the community should receive adequate training on circumventing the hazards as a pedestrian vs. traffic. Perimeter walkways and training where the safest places are for pedestrians to get around this type of intersection is better than too many signals. The committee needs to take a different approach to melding vehicular and pedestrian traffic flow. Another thought is that a perfectly clean open roundabout becomes cluttered and ugly with barriers that may have a tendency to make the roundabout feel constrained and not freely useable.
1105.7 Turn Lane Intersections.
Traffic signals installed to stop traffic on the right turn “slip” lanes will only create congested intersections and increased air pollution. If a modification to an intersection is warranted, it should be done in concert with the disabled community and professional traffic engineers. This paragraph does not help the pedestrian as related to safety.
1106 Accessible Pedestrian Signal System.
I generally agree with the proposal to require devices to provide guidance to pedestrians, though it will increase installation costs. The location of the system may not meet dimension requirements at each intersection all the time. This proposed regulation should be a concept and not a hard mandate. It should promote community involvement to place the accessible system where needed rather than at all signal locations. There needs to be a paragraph that lets the city and community work together to decide what pedestrian crossing time is required at some major intersections. The time is based on actual need rather that a fixed 3 second per foot walking speed.
1106.4 Directional Information and Signs.
The requirement for ”..of tactile and visual signs on the face of the device or its housing or mounting indicating crosswalk direction and the name of the street.. “. Tactile street names that are attached to the hardware changes these devices from “off the shelf” equipment to custom devices. This will make them more difficult and difficult to maintain.
1108 Detectable Warning Surfaces.
I am glad to see the detectable warning surfaces have been reduced to 24 inches on ramp surfaces. The surface area does not let a person with mobility problems walk safely nor does the detectable surface need to be installed on slopes greater than 1:15. Another concern is removal of ice from between the detectable domed surfaces. This can become a liability issue for both the city and the property owner. Personally, the domes in the ramps are a tripping hazard.
1109 On-Street Parking.
There is insufficient thought put into these proposals. Residential neighborhoods comprise the majority of the construction where the term block face is considered. To require indented, signed, accessible parking on every residential block face is hopefully not what the committee intended. The central business district has areas that has parking with meters and a few spaces that are designated for handicapped parking. The requirement for designated accessible spaces should not be a requirement. It is too costly for installing, moving signs. If the proposal becomes effective, the disabled persons or community and the city should work to achieve a satisfactory solution.
In our city the right-of-way usually is not wide enough to accommodate access aisles as proposed. There has been little or no concern for existing drainage run-off in the streets. New construction of accessible aisles may not warranted in the majority of cities. The street system allows parking needs with little hindrance to the intended wheelchair user. If the proposal becomes mandatory there may be unintended consequences. Why should a municipality be required to have reserved parking spaces designated for the disabled along each block? All motorists have the same equal opportunity to the current first come first parked situation. I have heard several comments concerning equal rights. One being, ”This is beginning to become a bit biased”.
In some areas the distance between cross streets may be as much as 550 feet and there are no business entrances within that block. This block should be exempt of the proposed standard.
This proposal needs to be reasonable. An alternate location paralleling the pedestrian route on the same side of the street is not possible when half or all the roadway is blocked by construction.
It would be better to have an alternate path that is best suited for pedestrians, even if it takes them on the opposite side of the street or on the next block that has an accessible walkway. Municipalities generally practice same side accessible movement if it is feasible. We have to look at liability issues when the accessible walkway is adjacent to some types of construction or demolition.
I have read the comments submitted to your office by AASHTO and concur with their comments.
Thank you for letting me have an opportunity to share my thoughts as it relates to the proposed standards. The above comments and suggestions should not be viewed as objections to the concept of providing reasonable access for the disabled community. In my opinion, it is imperative that reasonable accommodations for the disabled be placed within the right-of-way. My desire is to communicate potential pit-falls or unintended consequences associated with several of the proposed standards.
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