Warren L. Sick
|October 23, 2002|
STATE OF KANSAS
KANSAS DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
OFFICE OF ASSISTANT SECRETARY AND STATE TRANSPORTATION ENGINEER
Office of Technical and Informational Services
Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
1331 F. Street NW
Washington, DC 20004-1111
SUBJECT: Comments and Recommendations on the Draft Guidelines for Accessible Public Rights-of- Way submitted by the Kansas Department of Transportation.
Please accept this letter as the comments and recommendations of the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) on the Draft Guidelines for Accessible Public Rights-of- Way. KDOT had in-house experts, in the fields of traffic engineering, design, construction, maintenance and legal review the draft guidelines. The attached comments are not based upon speculation or conjecture, but are real problems that will need to be addressed at some point.
KDOT personnel also had the opportunity to participate in the comments and recommendations submitted by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and would like the Access Board to consider the comments in that document as being incorporated into this letter.
Overall issues and concerns:
The scoping requirements make it clear that the accessibility guidelines apply to new construction, alterations, and additions. However, it can be implied that the affected areas will have to be maintained to the guidelines. The cost and time associated with inspecting facilities to make sure they comply with the guidelines would seriously deplete governmental resources.
In addition, the guidelines could be used as a new standard by
which right of way facilities need
to be maintained for all persons, not just the disabled. For instance, changes in elevation in a
pedestrian path must not be greater than Y4 inch. If a non-disabled persons trips over a change in
level that is 3/8 of an inch will the responsible governmental entity be held liable. In most jurisdictions, governmental entities are held to maintaining right of way in a condition reasonably safe for its intended purpose. If the proposed guidelines are construed as creating a new standard for maintenance, governmental entities will payout more settlements and judgments. In addition, the cost of maintenance would most likely be a budget breaker.
When the ADA was enacted, proponents cited numerous examples where complying with the ADA requirements in new construction did not cost much more than not complying with the requirements. However, that doesn't appear to be the case with the Accessibility Guidelines for Public Rights-of-Way. The cost of installing elevators at overpasses is estimated to almost double the cost of an overpass. The cost of complying with the requirements for alternate circulation paths could add ten fold or more to the cost of conducting a short term maintenance operation on a sidewalk. Governmental entities are cutting back in most areas in an attempt to accommodate ever shrinking budgets. The guidelines as currently written would be a huge cost item competing with essential services in governmental budgets.
Conflicts with other standards:
The Proposed Guidelines for Accessible Public Rights-of-Way do not appear to consider the fact that many of the provisions contained in the Guidelines conflict with existing standards and regulations. Like many governmental entities, KDOT is legally required to follow the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The Proposed Guidelines for Accessible Public Rights of Way require traffic control in locations where it may not be warranted by the MUTCD. Additionally, KDOT follows the American Association of State Highway and Traffic Officials (AASHTO) A Policy on Geometric Design of Streets and Highways (Green Book) for criteria in designing roadways. Following the proposed guidelines will interfere with meeting the criteria set out in the Green Book. For instance, meeting the cross slope requirement at cross walks on streets with vertical curves could affect the design speed of the roadway. Complying with the proposed guidelines could also affect numerous other federally mandated requirements regarding air quality, environmental issues, and historic preservation.
1101.3 Defined Terms:
Pedestrian Access Route: KDOT recommends that the definition of "Pedestrian Access Route" be changed to "An accessible corridor intended for pedestrian use within the public right-of - way." KDOT has defended numerous claims brought by pedestrians who were hurt when using a location that wasn't intended for pedestrian use, i.e. a pedestrian on an Interstate highway; a sledder on Interstate right-of-way; and a pedestrian on a controlled access facility. Without the word "intended" being included in the definition there would be arguments that paved shoulders, county roads, grassy medians, etc. need to comply with the provisions for a pedestrian access route.
1102 Scoping Requirements:
1102.2.2 Alterations (of existing Public rights-of-way]: It is KDOT's recommendation that provision governing "Alterations" specifically state that maintenance work does not trigger the need for accessibility improvements.
Additionally, KDOT recommends that a percentage limit be put on the amount spent making an "alteration" accessible. A requirement that alterations trigger the need to make accessibility improvements without any dollar limit to be spent on the accessibility improvement could cause governmental entities to not do planned alterations. Of course, if an alteration is not done because of the cost associated with making the accessibility improvements it leaves disabled and non-disabled people alike without upgrades to their pedestrian access system.
The scoping provision on alterations also provides that alterations do not have to be in compliance with the requirements if compliance is "technically infeasible". More often than not an alteration in compliance with the standards will be technically feasible, but will not be reasonable because of the amount of right of way required, the cost of making the alteration, the destruction of historic elements, and the conflicts between the accessibility guidelines and engineering standards. KDOT would request that alterations be in reasonable compliance with the accessibility guidelines.
1102.3 Alternate Circulation Path: This section requires that an alternate circulation path be provided whenever a pedestrian access route is blocked by construction, alteration, maintenance, or other temporary conditions. KDOT recommends that the words "other temporary conditions" be removed from the requirement. "Other temporary conditions" is far too general to give the proposed guideline any sense of reasonableness. A temporary condition could be when a van with a lift is unloading passengers onto the sidewalk, there is snow or ice on the sidewalk, or a family is moving and has boxes stacked on the sidewalk. Therefore, KDOT recommends the removal of the words "other temporary conditions" from the requirement in 1102.3.
1102.8 Pedestrian Crossings: This section requires that pedestrian crossings comply with the provisions of 1105. 1105 appears to apply to locations where pedestrians cross streets. In the State of Kansas the only location where it is illegal for a pedestrian to cross a street is between two signal controlled intersections and crossing those facilities where pedestrians are prohibited. Therefore, the guideline could be read as requiring all locations on Kansas streets that are not between two signal controlled intersections or on pedestrian prohibited facilities as having to comply with the provisions of 1105. KDOT recommends that the section be rewritten to apply only to marked crosswalks including any medians, pedestrian overpasses and underpasses; and any stairs or escalators.
1103 Pedestrian Access Route
1103.3 Clear Width [of Pedestrian access routes]: This section requires the minimum clear width of a pedestrian access route to be 48 inches. KDOT recommends that there be an exception that allows the minimum clear width to be reduced to 32 inches for distances of up to 45 feet. In many areas driveways with steep inclines cross sidewalks. "Tabling" the driveway for a distance of 4 feet makes the other parts of the driveway steeper causing damage to vehicles and the sidewalk. The purpose behind 48 inch pedestrian access routes is not affected by a smaller access route for lengths up to 45 feet.
1104 Curb Ramps and Blended Transitions:
1104.3.4 Grade Breaks [at curb ramps and blended transitions]: This section provides that grade breaks shall not be permitted on curb ramps, blended transitions, landings, and gutter areas. KDOT recommends that an exception be written in that makes it clear that water drainage areas with grade breaks between the road cross slope and the back of the curb be allowed. There is no way to avoid a grade break in this area and still carry runoff down the street.
1105 Pedestrian Crossings:
1105.2.1 Width [of a crosswalk]: This section provides that crosswalks shall be a minimum of 96 inches wide. The MUTCD provides that crosswalks should be a minimum of six feet wide with an allowance for wider crosswalks where necessary. KDOT recommends that the MUTCD be followed in setting the standard for the width of a crosswalk. An eight foot crosswalk is not needed for accessibility purposes. While an eight foot crosswalk may be necessary in large metropolitan areas to handle large amounts of pedestrians it should not be mandated in all locations. Furthermore, an eight foot crosswalk exacerbates the problems associated with a 2% cross slope on the crosswalk and the difficulty with sight distance at intersections.
1105.2.2 Cross Slope [of a crosswalk]: The proposed guidelines require that the cross slope on crosswalks be 1:48 maximum. KDOT has many concerns about the "flattened" crosswalks in areas of hilly terrain. First, reconstructing crosswalks to the required cross slope would require a reconstruction of the entire street in a hilly area. The vertical alignment of the street would have to be adjusted to accommodate the flattened crosswalk. Changing the vertical alignment of the street could trigger other necessary changes in drainage, adjacent sidewalks, underground utilities and retaining walls. Making changes in the adjacent sidewalk would pose other pedestrian access problems.
Second, the primary purpose of the streets is to accommodate vehicular traffic. Flattening the crosswalks in areas of hilly terrain could cause control and safety problems for vehicular traffic. This is even more of a concern for emergency vehicles. If a vehicle loses control in an intersection it is the pedestrians who are not protected and in the way of an errant vehicle.
Finally, the cost of constructing the flattened crosswalk
and then making the necessary adjustments to the street, the sidewalks,
utilities, and drainage would be cost prohibitive. In addition, there is the
cost associated with the damaging effect on vehicles traveling through the
flattened area and the costs: property, medical, time off work, and legal,
surrounding foreseeable accidents in the intersection.
KDOT recommends that the guidelines require a crosswalk to be constructed with the minimum cross slope achievable while staying within generally accepted and prevailing highway design criteria.
1105.3 Pedestrian Signal Phase Timing: This section requires that pedestrian signal phase timing be calculated at 3.0 feet per second. Like other sections of the proposed guidelines, this section takes away all engineering judgment and creates a mandatory requirement which has not been evaluated using engineering judgment. The MUTCD allows engineering judgment to determine the pedestrian signal phase timing. KDOT recommends that the MUTCD be followed in calculating the pedestrian signal phase timing with more conservative numbers being used when engineering judgment determines that the more conservative number is appropriate. Using a 3.0 foot per second phase timing could have huge negative impacts on the capacity of vehicles going through the intersection.
1105.5.3 Approach [of pedestrian overpasses and underpasses]: The proposed guidelines mandate that elevators be installed where the rise to a pedestrian overpass exceeds 60 inches. It is KDOT's opinion that purely pedestrian overpasses will not be constructed if there is a requirement to install elevators. Furthermore, overpasses will not be maintained or rehabilitated for fear of triggering the requirement for an elevator. Overpasses with elevators will not be constructed due to the cost of constructing, maintaining and securing the elevators. KDOT recommends that ramps continue to be used for pedestrian access to overpasses.
1105.6.1 Separation [at roundabouts]: The accessibility guidelines provide that barriers be provided along the street side of the sidewalk where pedestrian crossing is prohibited at a roundabout. No other guidance is provided about what type of barrier should be used at such a location. A barrier used in this type of situation will need to be crashworthy, have tested end treatments, and not be a restriction for sight distance of the motorists. Even if such a barrier could be designed and manufactured, a barrier complying with the requirements on crashworthiness and not impairing sight distance will add substantially to the cost of constructing a roundabout. KDOT recommends this provision be dropped.
1105.6.2 Signals [at roundabouts]: This section mandates the installation of pedestrian signal devices at crosswalks on a roundabout. KDOT has serious misgivings about this requirement. Stop control signals on roundabouts defeats the purpose of roundabouts. Roundabouts keep traffic moving at a reduced speed. This in turn increases traffic capacity, reduces the severity of crashes, and reduces harmful emissions. A requirement for the installation of pedestrian signals at crosswalks in roundabouts will seriously reduce the number of roundabouts constructed. In addition, a stop control on a roundabout is unexpected by drivers. Unexpected conditions increase the likelihood of vehicle crashes injuring vehicle occupants as well as pedestrians. Finally, the proposed guidelines' mandatory provision totally ignores whether the MUTCD warrants the installation of a pedestrian signal at the crosswalk or not. KDOT recommends that this provision be removed. In the alternative, KDOT recommends that the provision be reserved until the Transportation Research Board's National Cooperative Highway Research Program Project 3-65, Applying Roundabouts in the Untied States is complete. The research project can be used as a basis for writing appropriate accessibility provisions for roundabouts.
1105.7 Turn Lanes at Intersection: This provision mimics the provision concerning pedestrian signals at roundabouts. Consequently, KDOT shares the same concerns with this provision as it does on the provision governing signals at roundabouts.
1106 Accessible Pedestrian Signal Systems: The provisions governing accessible pedestrian signal systems cover items such as audible and vibrotactile indications of the walk interval; the location of the signals; the minimum distance from other signals, (which prohibits the use of two signal heads on the same support); locator tones on the pedestrian push button; and directional and information signs that must provide information in both tactile and visual forms. KDOT's concern is the cost associated with the design, construction and maintenance of such elaborate pedestrian signals. KDOT recommends that the Access Board wait for information obtained in the National Cooperative Highway Research Program Project 3-62, Guidelines for Accessible Pedestrian Signals before setting regulations in this area.
1108 Detectable Warning Surfaces: KDOT recommends that the Access Board exclude the requirement for truncated domes on curb cuts with a slope of I: 15 or steeper. There have always been concerns over the use of truncated domes. It is known that truncated domes are difficult to maintain in winter weather, and that they cause hardships for mobility impaired persons. Allowing a curb cut that is steep enough to be noticeable to the visually impaired, not a difficult maneuver for those with mobility impairments, and is not a maintenance problem for governmental entities benefits all concerned parties.
1111 Alternate Circulation Path: This series of provisions set out the requirements for routes to be used when a pedestrian access route is closed. KDOT has serious concerns with the provisions for alternate circulation paths. A major concern of KDOT's is that no time period for the construction or maintenance activity that closes the pedestrian access route be required before triggering the requirement for an alternate circulation path. On projects that do not last more than one day the cost associated with designing an alternate path, bringing in the barrier and setting it up, signing the alternate path and then taking the alternate path down when the activity is over would significantly increase the time and cost involved in doing any type of work that requires closure of a pedestrian access route.
1111.3 Location [of alternate circulation paths]: This provision requires the alternate circulation path to be on the same side of the street as the disrupted one. In many cases this would be extremely expensive or cause a safety concern. To place the alternate circulation path on the same side of the street would require that easements be acquired and private property torn up to build a temporary walkway, or that the street be used as the pedestrian route and vehicular traffic be detoured. The first choice results in a use of taxpayer dollars that would not be supported by the public and the second results in a safety issue for both pedestrians and drivers. Furthermore, attempting to accommodate both construction traffic and the alternate circulation path would be difficult if not dangerous to pedestrians.
1111.4 Protection [of the alternate circulation path] and 111.6 Barricades [to provide protection to the alternate circulation path]: These two provisions require that barricades be placed around an alternate circulation path. KDOT's first concern is that it appears the Access Board wants to require barricades to protect pedestrians. Barricades do not provide protection. Barricades provide delineation. A barrier provides protection. However, KDOT also has concerns over using barriers around alternate circulation paths. Before a barrier is used it must be determined if the barrier, which is an obstacle to vehicular traffic, will prevent more injuries than it will cause if hit. Installation of a barrier may be acceptable at locations with high vehicle traffic and high pedestrian traffic, but at many locations a barrier would not be warranted. In addition, the barrier would have to be crash worthy in case an errant vehicle ran into it. KDOT is unaware of any product approved for this type of situation.
KDOT recommends that the requirements for alternate
circulation paths follow the provisions of the MUTCD. As written the proposed
guidelines are too costly, dangerous to both pedestrians and drivers, increase
the time length for small jobs on the pedestrian access route, and could be
impossible to apply in a reasonable manner during some types of operations.
The Kansas Department of Transportation has serious concerns about the proposed guidelines. Implementing the guidelines as currently written will significantly increase construction and maintenance cost. Many provisions in the guidelines conflict with accepted practices and established guidelines for highway and street design and, if followed, could easily increase the risk of accident for both drivers and pedestrians. Numerous provisions in the guidelines create mandatory traffic control where it is not warranted under existing standards. The guidelines require engineers to choose between following the guidelines and using engineering judgment in deciding upon an appropriate and safe design.
The Kansas Department of Transportation would like to thank the Access Board for considering KDOT's comments and recommendations.
Warren L. Sick,
Assistant Secretary and State Transportation Engineer
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