Alonzo Liñán, P.E.
October 28, 2002
City of Olathe
Re: Draft guidelines on accessible public right-of-way proposed by the U.S.
Dear Mr. Windley:
Since the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the city of Olathe has endeavored to
maximize accessibility of city programs and facilities to all segments of our
population. The city of Olathe has also incorporated the additional requirements
of the Disability Act of 1990 and it subsequent revisions. All of these actions
have been successful in removing barriers for the disabled and has provided
access to all parts of the community to public services, programs and
facilities. To date, none of these actions have resulted in a decrease of access
to other segments of the community nor has it compromised the safety of other
customers in our community.
Several of the proposed guidelines require pedestrian activated traffic signals
at many locations. This blanket requirement for the placement of traffic signals
in contrary to the MUTCD where at least some minimum warrant has to be met.
Without at least minimum warrants, traffic signals will soon go the way of
"Children At Play" and "Neighborhood Watch" signs. There will be so many traffic
signals that when they are actually needed, they will be ignored. This is a very
serious safety issue for the entire population.
The proposed draft guidelines will push communities like ours into a position of
not providing facilities or services because of the cost of maintenance,
rehabilitations and reconstructions as well as its impact on safety. In short,
the Access Board's attempt to provide access for all people, at all times, for
all programs, at all facilities, may deny access and services to all citizens of
the community so that there will not be a "discriminated group". In the end,
everyone will be treated equally as communities exercise their discretionary
powers to not make improvements beyond a certain level.
Finally, I feel that many of these proposals are premature as statistical
information is not available to draw conclusions from nor is there consensus
between The National Federation of the Blind or the American Council of the
Blind on many of these issues.
I hope the following comments illustrate these views.
Section 1102.2.2; Additions and Alternations - "Compliance in alterations is
required except where it is 'technically infeasible.'"
My concern is that, as an engineer, the only thing that makes something
"technically infeasible" is money and politics. This needs to be better defined.
"...such work might be technically feasible at other locations where acquiring
right-of-way is practicable."
"Practicable" needs to be defined as well. Cities can use imminent domain, but
the political ramifications of doing so for a sidewalk may force policy makers
to avoid the project.
Section 1102.3; Alternate Circulation Path - "...call[s] for alternate
circulation path are where pedestrian access routes are temporarily blocked by
construction, alteration, maintenance, or other temporary conditions...(on the
same side of the street parallel to the disrupted pedestrian access route)."
The concern is "or other temporary conditions". First, this needs to be more
narrow in definition as snow can be considered a temporary condition. I would
also suggest that the barrier requirement be changed to allow for barricades
with modifications for the disabled.
Second, since an alternate path has to be parallel and on the same side, this
may require easements to construct a temporary surface "to the outside". This
speaks to a significant cost increase to repair or replace some sidewalk. If the
sidewalk is on a 4 lane road and no easements or right-of-way exists "to the
outside", then taking the outside lane of traffic may be the only other choice.
But then you run into a curb, slope limits, additional traffic control...
Regardless, a 30 minute job could now take hours.
In either case, the city will be faced with either increased costs for easements
or potential reduced safety on the street by putting peds in the street; both of
which may lead a city to determine that sidewalks may not be maintainable and,
therefore, either removed or not put in.
Section 1102.4; Pedestrian Access Route - "...refers to the portion of the
public right-of-way that serves as an accessible route."
What provision is there for sidewalks that are in easements? Does this proposed
document extend into private property for public use but is not right-of-way?
Does this unintentionally obviate easements for sidewalks in the future?
Section 1102.5; Protruding Objects - "...limited to a 4 inch protrusion."
This could lead to a lot of unintended prohibitions. Examples include call
boxes, pole mounted controllers, streetlight controllers, directional and
Section 1102.12; Vertical Access - "Elevators are not required by these
guidelines except at certain pedestrian overpasses and underpasses with
elevation changes greater than 60 inches."
Aside from the obvious maintenance and security issues, this will clearly
prohibit any municipality from seriously considering any pedestrian
Section 1102.14; On-Street Parking - "[For parallel parking] an access isle at
60 inches wide shall be provided at street level the full length of the parking
space...[and]shall not encroach on the vehicular travel lane."
This is too broad of a statement and is unreasonable for every block face. Is
this just for downtown blocks or residential blocks as well? What is considered
a block? This seems to ignore the curvilinear nature of suburban street design
if it includes residential streets. This also assumes that there is a need for
this specific number of parking; "blocks" can have more or less need. This also
assumes that there are "parking stalls" already marked. This is certainly not
the case in residential areas.
Logistically, this will come at a cost of at least three other parking stalls,
if not more, and will negatively impact the sidewalk system. If the presumption
is that a driver can pull next to the new curb so that the driver can utilize
the additional 60 inches, then they will need to transition to that point. At
least two more stalls will be lost to allow a vehicle to maneuver into and out
The drainage will be severely affected as well. While the slope can be
maintained for street drainage at the original curb line, this introduces ADA
slope and transition issues to connect to a relocated sidewalk. The now
relocated sidewalk becomes an unexpected variable for the blind and as such
becomes a safety issue.
This one just needs to be dropped.
Section 1105.2.1; Pedestrian Crosswalk Width - "...shall be 96 inches wide
This is in inconsistent with the MUTCD which requires only 72 inches minimum.
This should be dropped except in high ped areas. Low pedestrian volumes can be
accommodated with 72 inches.
Section 1105.2.2; Pedestrian Crosswalk Slope - "...slope shall be 1:48 maximum
measured perpendicular to the direction of pedestrian travel."
This maximum cross slope will require "tables" at each intersection which will
degrade the ride-ability of vehicular traffic and may compound grade problems in
mid-block sections of steep roadways.
Section 1105.3; Pedestrian Signal Phase Timing - "All pedestrian signal phase
timing shall be calculated using a pedestrian walk speed of 3.0 feet per second
(0.91 m/s) maximum. The total crosswalk distance used in calculating pedestrian
signal phase timing shall include the entire length of the crosswalk plus the
length of the curb ramp."
This is extremely unreasonable. The MUTCD indicates 4.0 f/s with the freedom to
reduce as needed. To require 3 f/s and increasing the distance to include ramp
lengths engender disrespect for the pedestrian indications as pedestrians will
watch the flashing Don't Walk continue for as much as 15 to 20 seconds longer
and vehicle and intersection delays will increase proportionally as well; which
can be directly related to increased accidents at intersections as well as
amplified driver frustration.
Section 1105.6; Roundabout
This is a principle example of how the proposed accessibility measures will come
at the cost of safety on the street. It is my hope that these "proposals" are
only published to generate discussion and are not truly seen as reasonable.
Section 1105.6.1; [Roundabout] Separation- "Continuous barriers shall be
provided along the street side of the sidewalk where pedestrian crossing is
This is not consistent with other street designs and conditions. If the attempt
is to prohibit the blind pedestrian from inadvertently crossing, then "regular"
curves in the road become suspect. I find it difficult to accept that the blind
pedestrian would consider "jaywalking"; which is what would be required if they
were on any other curved street.
Section 1105.6.2; [Roundabouts] Signals - "A pedestrian activated traffic
signal...shall be provided for each segment of the crosswalk, including the
It appears form the discussion that there is a view that roundabouts are
intrinsically unsafe for pedestrians. There is no documented proof that
indicates that roundabouts are unsafe for pedestrians. It seems that this
proposal is an attempt to pass judgement on the appropriateness of a traffic
control device and recommend remedial actions without the benefit of any
statistical data. If this gets adopted as written, it will effectively remove
roundabouts as a traffic control and flow option as any traffic benefit will be
negated with the presence of traffic signals.
So, again, in an attempt to provide access for all people, at all times, for all
programs, at all facilities, cities will be forced to not make these
improvements because of the cost, or not make these improvements because of the
reduced or no benefit, or live with the more dangerous condition of following
these rules and increase rear-end accidents, increase delay, increase air
pollution, increase driver frustration...
The bottom line is that every traffic control device can be dangerous if not
used properly and roundabouts are no different. The difference with roundabouts
is that there are fewer conflict points, slower traffic, and less severe
crashes. The addition would again negate all of these benefits and would make
the intersection very complex for any pedestrian and driver.
Section 1105.7; Turn Lanes at Intersections - "Where pedestrian crosswalks are
provided at right or left turn slip lanes, a pedestrian activated traffic
signal...shall be provided for each segment of the...crosswalk..."
What's a slip lane? If free-flow turn lanes are at issue, then there are
literally thousands of existing "slip" lanes, both at signalized and
un-signalized intersections. This is a common design element this requirement
would essentially eliminate slip lane design from intersections.
Again, not until now have access accommodations resulted in a decrease of access
and safety to other segments of the community.
Alonzo Liñán, P.E.
Traffic Division Manager
City of Olathe