Gerard J. Fuccillo, R.C.E.
|October 28, 2002|
Subject: Comments to the Draft Guidelines on Accessible Public Rights
My name is Gerard J. Fuccillo , and I have been a Registered Civil Engineer in California for the past 30 years, 23 of which have been as a Consultant City Engineer for a small city in California. I am familiar with accessibility regulations since the 1973 Uniform Building Code, as well as the current ADA regulations as they apply to building and public facility accessibility. In my experience, I have designed and reviewed quite a few street, intersection and sidewalk projects, including alterations to public facilities and retrofit curb and corner ramps.
I have reviewed the Draft Guidelines on Accessible Public Rights of Way, and I have some serious concerns in regard to the application of these guidelines to small rural cities and areas, especially those with significant terrain. I realize that the guidelines are intended to apply to only new construction, alterations and additions; however the Federal courts and Department of Justice have already determined that an alteration of as little as a resurfacing of a street brings on the ADA requirements at street corners.
Unless limitations are specifically applied with these final guidelines, I am sure that it won’t be long before the guidelines are applied to entire existing street systems when anything is altered.
Generally, I have found that there are inherent impossibilities of compliance in some of the guidelines, as well as safety hazards to all, should certain of the guidelines be applied in steeper terrain. A strict application of the guidelines would be an extreme financial burden to rural cities and areas with steep terrain in terms of construction and reconstruction costs in efforts to comply, and in litigation costs for failure to comply with the impossible, or for creating a safety hazard for all. There needs to be some outright exceptions to the guidelines, or a clear definition of “technically infeasible” and “maximum extent feasible” and who determines these conditions. Otherwise, we will be creating a veritable retirement program for advocate attorneys and their expert witnesses at the expense of the public. If the determination of compliance is left to a case by case basis, rest assured, it will a court case by court case basis.
Specifically, I would like to comment in the following areas:
1. Street Grade vs Curb Ramps and Blended Transitions. The guidelines and sketches of Curb Ramps and Blended Transitions in the guideline commentary assume that the world is flat, or less than 1:48 slope (which I will call 2% slope here). Up to a street grade of 2%, the details and guidelines work well, one can fully comply.
However, when one of the streets at an intersection exceeds 2% running grade, the cross grade at the threshold between the street and sidewalk needs to exceed the 2% cross grade requirement, and follow the street grade in parallel or perpendicular curb ramps, or be a combination of the street grades in blended transitions. The detail for the Blended Transition, shows a corner where two sidewalks have converging grades; here it is easy to flatten the grade at the threshold corner. Unfortunately, this condition is present at only two of the corners of a four corner intersection of streets intersecting at grade. The other two corners will have diverging grades where the slope of the one street needs to blend to the grade of the other street over the threshold.
Up to about 5% street grade, the running grade requirement of 1:12 slope for ramps can reasonably be met. At 5% street grade, assuming a 6" curb and a 15' ramp, the combined slope of the ramp and the street grade will result in a ramp grade of 8.33% (1:12 slope). At street grades over 5%, it is impossible to comply with either the running grade or cross slope requirements of the guidelines. At street grades over 10%, one would be running the risk of creating a safety hazard to both the pedestrian and wheelchaired by forcing an uphill curb ramp.
2. Tabling of Intersections, Crosswalk Cross Slope. The flattening of intersections to create a maximum 2% cross slope over a crosswalk is really not an option on existing street systems where streets intersect at over 2% grade. One would need to reconstruct all four legs of the intersection for quite some distance back from the intersection, depending upon the street grade, in order to taper the street grade to the 2% intersection slope. On existing street systems crosswalk cross grade needs to follow the running grade of the street.
Although tabling can be accommodated on complete new intersections and street systems, it would probably be unwise from a safety standpoint to flatten intersections on street grades over 5%. One would be creating a ski jump effect in the downhill direction, as well as visibility problems in the uphill direction on steeper grades. On steeper street systems with short blocks, the tabling could create out control vehicles in the downhill direction, as well as invisible crosswalks on the far side of the intersection to the uphill vehicle. The line of sight of a vehicle approaching the intersection in the uphill direction could very well be over the head of a pedestrian in the far side crosswalk, in the distance require to stop, on steep streets with sharp breaks in grade.
3. On Street Accessible Parking. The requirement for one accessible on street parking space per block face will result in inequity and extreme resentment in small cities and areas. In the small city I serve, we have short blocks, with only 6 to 8 on street parking spaces per block face. On street parking is very dear in small cities, and providing a ratio of 1:6 to 8, would be met with extreme resentment from the drivers not permitted to use those spaces.
Additionally, on street grades in excess of 2%, one would be putting the handicapped driver in harm’s way by providing on street accessible parallel parking. In small cities with narrow streets and right of ways, the exception to the access aisle (14' curbline to right of way) will be taken every time, thereby forcing the unloading area into the traveled way on grades in excess of 2%.
The very purpose of putting accessible spaces in parking lots is to provide a safe unloading area. Putting accessible spaces on street is counter to this purpose, especially where the street grade is in excess of 2%.
The requirement for on street accessible parking should be dropped or qualified to only where the street grade is 2% or less, and to angled or perpendicular parking only. In regard to the ratio, one should also count the many accessible spaces placed in public parking lots in a downtown area, and provide a ratio commensurate with overall handicapped population of an area versus the total population of that area.
In summary, it is hoped that the Access Board will consider the comments above and provide some definite exceptions and limitations to the application of the final guidelines to be adopted. The exceptions and limitations could be based upon population of an area. rural or urban, and of course, terrain. In as much as the ADA has established an accessible route standard of 5%, it would seem logical that 5% street grade should be the limitation of application of the guidelines. They could establish a simple 5% rule, i.e., where the street grade exceeds 5%, the guidelines do not apply.
Additionally, it is hoped that there is a engineering review of all of the details of the guidelines for safety and practicality prior to their adoption. Items like truncated cones and audible signals could actually result in safety hazards for all, and liability for the local jurisdiction. Sometimes I think we get caught up on the details, and lose sight of the overall safety and practicality of the regulations.
Very truly yours,
Gerard J. Fuccillo, R.C.E.
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