Detectable Warning Surfaces on Curb Ramps and Blended Transitions

Detectable warning surfaces consist of small truncated domes built in or applied to a walking surface that are detectable underfoot. On pedestrian access routes, detectable warning surfaces indicate the boundary between a pedestrian route and a vehicular route where there is a flush rather than a curbed connection for pedestrians who are blind or have low vision. The proposed guidelines require detectable warning surfaces to be installed on newly constructed and altered curb ramps and blended transitions at pedestrian street crossings (see R208.1 and R305).31

Current Requirements for Detectable Warning Surfaces on Curb Ramps

When the Access Board issued the 1991 ADAAG, the guidelines contained a requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps. The requirement was temporarily suspended between 1994 and 2001 pending additional research and review of issues relating to requirement. The Access Board deferred addressing detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps in the 2004 ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines pending completion of the guidelines for pedestrian facilities in the public right-of-way. As a result of these actions, there are different requirements for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps in the accessibility standards included the regulations issued by the Department of Justice implementing Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and by the Department of Transportation implementing Section 504.

When the Department of Justice initially issued regulations in 1991 implementing Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the regulations required state and local governments to use accessibility standards (hereinafter referred to as the "DOJ 1991 Standards") that included the 1991 ADAAG which contained a requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps, or the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) which did not contain a requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps.32 When the Department of Justice adopted the DOJ 2010 Standards, those standards included the 2004 ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines which do not contain a requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps.

The Department of Transportation regulations implementing Section 504 require state and local governments that receive federal financial assistance directly or indirectly from the Department to use accessibility standards that include the 2004 ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines, as modified by the Department, or UFAS. See 49 CFR 27.3 (b). The Department of Transportation modified the 2004 ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines by retaining certain requirements from the 1991 ADAAG, including the requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps. See 406.8 in Appendix A to 49 CFR part 37.

State and local transportation departments will be affected differently by the requirement in the proposed guidelines for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps depending on the accessibility standards that they use for curb ramps in the public right-of-way. The Access Board reviewed the standard drawings for the design of curb ramps on state transportation department websites and found that the transportation departments in all 50 states and the District of Columbia specify detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps in the standard drawings.33 Most local transportation departments use standard drawings for the design of curb ramps that are consistent with the standard drawings maintained by their state transportation departments. These state and local transportation departments use either the DOJ 1991 Standards, which include the 1991 ADAAG requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps, or the Department of Transportation accessibility standards, which include the 2004 ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines as modified by the Department to include the requirement from the 1991 ADAAG for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps.34

Governmental Units Affected

State and local transportation departments are divided into four groups for the purpose of evaluating the impacts of the requirement in the proposed guidelines for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps:

  • Group 1 consists of state and local transportation departments that use UFAS for curb ramps as currently permitted by the Department of Justice and Department of Transportation regulations implementing Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504. UFAS did not contain a requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps. The Access Board is not aware of any state and local transportation departments that use UFAS. The Department of Justice regulations do not permit the use of UFAS on or after March 15, 2012. See 28 CFR 35.151 (c) (3). Thus, Group 1 will cease to exist as of March 15, 2012, and any state and local transportation departments currently in Group 1 will fall into one of the other groups.
  • Group 2 consists of state and local transportation departments that receive federal financial assistance directly or indirectly from the Department of Transportation. State and local transportation departments in Group 2 are required to comply with the accessibility standards in the Department of Justice regulations implementing Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Department of Transportation regulations implementing Section 504. Where the requirements in the accessibility standards in the Department of Justice and Department of Transportation regulations differ, the more stringent requirement must be used. Excluding any state and local transportation departments in Group 1, state and local transportation departments in Group 2 must comply with the requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps in the Department of Transportation regulations because it is the more stringent requirement. All state transportation departments and most local transportation departments are in Group 2 and specify detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps in their standard drawings. The requirement in the proposed guidelines for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps will not have any impacts on state and local transportation departments in Group 2.
  • Group 3 consists of local transportation departments that do not receive federal financial assistance directly or indirectly from the Department of Transportation. Local transportation departments in Group 3 are required to comply only with the accessibility standards in the Department of Justice regulations implementing Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Excluding any local transportation departments in Group 1, local transportation departments in Group 3:
    • Used the DOJ 1991 Standards, which include the 1991 ADAAG and contain a requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps, before September 15, 2010. See 28 CFR 35.151 (c) (1).
    • Are permitted to use the DOJ 1991 Standards, which include the 1991 ADAAG and contain a requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps, or the DOJ 2010 Standards, which include the 2004 ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines and do not contain a requirement for detectable warnings on curb ramps, between September 15, 2010 and March 14, 2012. See 28 CFR 35.151 (c) (2).
    • Must use the DOJ 2010 Standards, which include the 2004 ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines and do not contain a requirement for detectable warnings on curb ramps, on or after March 15, 2012. See 28 CFR 35.151 (c) (3).


    Thus, local transportation departments in Group 3 were required to provide detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps before September 15, 2010; may or may not be required to provide detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps between September 15, 2010 and March 14, 2012 depending on the accessibility standard they use (DOJ 1991 Standards or DOJ 2010 Standards); and are not required to provide detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps on or after March 15, 2012 pending the future adoption of accessibility standards for pedestrian facilities in the public right-of-way by the Department of Justice.
  • Group 4 consists of state and local transportation departments that do not comply with accessibility standards for curb ramps in the public right-of-way. The Department of Justice and Federal Highway Administration have provided guidance on the accessibility standards that apply to curb ramps in the public right-of-way, including the requirement for detectable warning surfaces.35 Despite the guidance provided by the Department of Justice and Federal Highway Administration on the accessibility standards that apply to curb ramps in the public right-of-way, there may be state and local transportation departments that do not comply with the standards.

The impacts of the requirement in the proposed guidelines for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps on state and local transportation departments in Groups 1, 2, 3, and 4 are summarized in the table below.

Group 1
Standards Used: UFAS – did not contain requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps

Impacts:
Not aware of any state and local transportation departments in Group 1

Question 4 in preamble to proposed guidelines seeks information on state and local transportation departments in Group 1

Group 1 will cease to exist as of March 15, 2012, and any state or local transportation departments currently in Group 1 will fall into one of the other groups

Group 2*
Standards Used: Standards in Department of Transportation regulations implementing Section 504 – contains requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps

Impacts:
Group 2 consists of state and local transportation departments that receive federal financial assistance directly or indirectly from the Department of Transportation No impacts on state and local transportation departments in Group 2 compared to standards currently used

Group 3*
Standards Used:
Standards in Department of Justice regulations implementing Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Before September 15, 2010: DOJ 1991 Standards – contains requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps

Between September 15, 2010 and March 14, 2012:
DOJ 1991 Standards – contains requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps; or DOJ 2010 Standards – does not contain requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps

On or after March 15, 2012: DOJ 2010 Standards – does not contain requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps

Impacts:
Group 3 consists of local transportation departments that do not receive federal financial assistance directly or indirectly from the Department of Transportation

Impacts will depend on standards used and whether behavior will change as a result of DOJ 2010 Standards

Question 5 in preamble to proposed guidelines seeks information on whether local transportation departments in Group 3 will continue or discontinue providing detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps pending the future adoption of accessibility standards for pedestrian facilities in the public right-of-way by the Department of Justice

Group 4
Standards Used: Do not comply with accessibility standards for curb ramps

Impacts:
Unknown how many state and local transportation departments are in Group 4

Question 6 in preamble to proposed guidelines requests comments on whether the future adoption of accessibility standards for pedestrian facilities in the public right-of-way by the Department of Justice and Department of Transportation will have a positive or negative effect, or no effect on compliance rates by state and local transportation departments, particularly with respect to providing detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps

* Groups 2 and 3 exclude state and local transportation departments in Group 1.

Administration, “Information on Detectable Warnings” (May 6, 2002) at: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/ bikeped/dwm.htm.

Costs to Provide Detectable Warning Surfaces on Curb Ramps

Detectable warning surfaces are available in a variety of materials. The Volpe Center gathered data from local transportation departments and vendors on various detectable warning materials and estimated the costs of 8 square feet of the materials for a typical curb ramp as shown in the table below. The estimates do not include installation costs.

Detectable Warning Materials Costs for Typical Curb Ramp
(Installation Costs Not Included)
Concrete pavers $48 to $80
Brick pavers $128
Polymer and composite materials $120 to $200
Stainless steel or cast iron products $240

Questions 7 and 8 in the preamble to the proposed guidelines seek additional information on the costs for detectable warning materials and installation of the materials on a typical curb ramp, and the number of curb ramps that are constructed or altered on an annual basis in the public right-of-way by state and local transportation departments.