|October 28, 2002|
2. Safety - It is important that the
sidewalk and ramp surfaces be relatively smooth to avoid trip hazards and to
allow easy removal of snow, ice and other dangerous substances. Detectable
warning devices will work counter to keeping the access ramp clear. It is easy
to envision snow and ice building up around detectable warning surfaces and
acting as a slip hazard in communities with inclement weather.
While working with our visually impaired community, we have determined that concrete scoring provides viable tactile identification.
Alternate Circulation Path
The "location" requirements are the major concern. It is often infeasible to close a sidewalk and then provide an "alternate circulation path" on the same side of the street. This issue is adequately covered in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). In Part 6 (Temporary Traffic Control), there is discussion about the need for encouraging pedestrians to cross to the other side of the street for safety reasons. It will be confusing if this clear guidance from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is countered by requirements from another federal agency.
The primary concerns are cost and feasibility for access ramp construction:
1. Standards should be reasonable for constructing access ramps in constrained urban conditions. It is especially important to be able to retrofit access ramps into these areas. It must remain feasible to build an access ramp within an existing four-foot wide sidewalk, without using an excessive amount of the sidewalk itself (1:48 side slope is excessive). Also, it seems excessive to have to build a retaining wall to construct the proposed access ramp (as per the diagram for Parallel Curb Ramps 1104.2.2). A side slope of 1:12 seems reasonable and has been implemented in numerous locations throughout or city. A requirement of 1:48 is excessive.
2. It should remain a reasonable course of action to construct one access
ramp at an intersection corner instead of two access ramps, when existing
conditions (such as drainage facilities or other existing streetscape features)
would make it infeasible to provide two ramps.
In general, we would support wider crosswalks; however, it seems appropriate for the width of a crosswalk to be addressed by the FHWA and the USDOT in the MUTCD. It is illogical for two federal agencies to have two different standards in two different sets of requirements. We ask that the federal agencies involved in these overlapping decision-making processes coordinate to avoid this confusing situation.
Pedestrian Signal Phasing Timing
The requirement to use either 3.5 or 3.0 feet per second to time pedestrian walk phasing is excessive. There will be numerous situations where this will result in more lost time at congested intersections which would result in more congestion and more congestion-related impacts (such as traffic accidents and unsafe driving behavior). The requirement to include the access ramp in the crossing distance calculation is inappropriate because of the increased lost time and infrequent benefit.
Accessible Pedestrian Signal Systems
It is not a reasonable or prudent requirement to require that all traffic signals with pedestrian phasing be equipped with audible and vibrating confirmation features. This requirement increases the cost for providing pedestrian phasing and will discourage administrators from providing pedestrian phasing at new or reconstructed traffic signal locations. Local jurisdiction traffic engineers can determine whether such features are needed at individual traffic signals, based on all the user groups at the intersection.
As worded in the proposal, every block would be required to have handicap parking. The majority of the blocks in the city of Boulder (a town of 100, 000) do not have a need for handicap parking especially in residential areas. The city of Boulder currently responds to requests for handicap parking as they come in from the community and from the local disability task force established to handle such concerns. Handicap parking areas have been placed in business and residential areas as the need has arisen. This method allows us to put the handicap parking in the locations where it will do the most good, instead of arbitrarily choosing locations we think may be useful.
Costs associated with adding handicap parking to every block would have a huge budgetary impact on the city of Boulder, in a large part due to the new requirements of curb access.
In residential areas the cost would be driven even higher. In many older areas of town, the city has a large right-of-way area, the area between the curb and the sidewalk. Many of these areas range from 15 - 20 feet in width. These proposed changes would require a wide access area that would extend from the curb to the sidewalk. This would mean removing any landscape currently in place (i.e. sprinklers, rock, retaining walls, flower beds, etc.) and replacing these areas with concrete from the curb to the sidewalk.
Streets that are on a hill or steep slope would present other challenges. For example, handicap spaces would be required on streets that would not be conducive to handicap parking. Steep slopes are not navigable for someone in a wheelchair or walking with the aid of a walker.
Business districts have similar problems. Some blocks have parking at the curb which is a foot or two lower than the sidewalk. In these areas, handicap parking is usually accommodated around the corner in a better-equipped location. The proposed changes would require a spot on a block, which could result in an access area that had a grade steep enough to render it useless. Also, no mention is made as to how far back from the curb the area would have to be clear. Depending on the depth of the "clear area" it could cause problems locating handicap parking in areas that are heavily crowded with trees, street signs and sidewalk eating areas for restaurants.
Lost revenue is another factor associated with these changes. While the city of Boulder installs parking meters at handicap parking spaces, in business districts, the revenue from these meters are significantly lower than other meters. Utilization reports indicate the average parking meter is used 75 percent of the time and generates $1,120 a year. The average handicap parking meter is used 26 percent of the time and generates $373 a year. The city would have to replace 107 regular parking meters (77 spaces plus 33 additional diagonal spaces for diagonal requirements) with 77 handicap parking meters. This would result in a loss of $91,119 per year.
The city of Boulder currently has 2 percent handicap parking in the downtown meter district. In addition, when businesses, citizens or the Disability Task Force comes forward with additional handicap parking requests the city has responded and worked with those individuals or groups to determine where the best location would be for the additional space.
Passenger Loading Zones
The new proposed changes would require access ramps to all passenger-loading zones. The city of Boulder has installed many passenger-loading zones near daycare centers, schools and churches, as requested. These have been in addition to any handicap spaces that already existed. The proposed change would require bringing already existing handicap spaces into the new ADA standards and could result in the removal of some passenger loading zones where handicap parking already exists. If these requirements make it more costly to provide passenger-loading zones, then fewer passenger-loading zones will likely be constructed. The result -- less availability to daycare centers and schools.
Summary of Comments
1. Much of what is being required in the proposed guidelines will have significant financial impacts and constitute an unfunded mandate that is unfair to local jurisdictions.
2. Several areas address issues already included in the MUTCD. We believe it is inappropriate to endorse conflicting policy, when a viable and preferable alternative is to change existing policy.
3. There are several areas being addressed that should be left to the discretion and professional judgement of local transportation administrators, rather than requiring mandates which will result in significant costs and impacts, while having questionable benefit to the communities we serve.
The city of Boulder hopes that these comments are useful in determining the next course of action and that serious consideration is given to the concerns identified. For clarification on any of these comments, please contact Bill Cowern at [ ... ].
Transportation Operations Engineer
City of Boulder
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