William D. Ankner, Ph.D.
October 25, 2002
Draft ADA Regulations – RIDOT Comment
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation supports the design and
construction of sidewalks that are accessible to all individuals, and concurs
with the need for coherent regulations to provide common sense guidance that
will assure accessible routes, to the maximum extent possible, in all public
rights of way.
Where new construction is involved, compliance with the proposed minimum clear
width requirement of 48” appears reasonable and practical. However, in older
urban areas, requirement could be difficult to meet and expensive to implement.
There needs to be an allowance to exercise good engineering judgment when
attempting to achieve this revised clear width on projects involving improvement
to existing facilities. A public right of way equivalent to “technically
infeasible” that can be equated to cost (money or time) should be expressly
A typical urban roadway with sidewalk in Rhode Island is narrow, bounded by
historically significant structures, and full of underground and overhead
utilities. In many situations the utility poles are set close to the back of
curb and the Right-of-Way line is coincidental with the back of sidewalk. An
increase to 48” will be an economic impossibility for the majority of projects
on these types of highways.
In those situations where utility poles would have to be relocated to provide
the proposed clearance, the resulting expense would result in a reduction of
funds available for additional ADA improvements as Rhode Island State law
requires that if Federal funds are utilized for a project, the cost of any
utility relocation must be borne by the State.
Although the draft regulations address the application of the technical
requirements relative to the project Scope of Work, and that compliance will be
“prorated” based on the extent of work planned, we remain concerned as to the
expectations that will be raised by the new 48” standard, and how (and by whom)
this will be interpreted particularly for lower-level projects such as roadway
resurfacings. Should the standard be increased to 48”, it will frequently
require that either utility poles will need to be moved, additional right-of-way
acquired, walls rebuilt, or all of the above. We anticipate that the costs of
attempting to comply would now far exceed the cost of the initial project and
significantly increase the time to perform the engineering required to address
The increase in project complexity and costs associated with improving the
corridor to the level of service required in the draft regulations will result
in a drastic reduction in the amount of miles improved. We see this as a step
backward rather than continued progress in our efforts to improve public
rights-of-way to be accessible to all.
William D. Ankner, Ph.D.
Rhode Island Department of Transportation
Please note that the Rhode Island Department of Transportation supports the
AASHTO Policy Resolution entitled: AASHTO's
Response On The US Access Board's Draft Buidelines For Accessible Public
Rights-of-Way and the AASHTO Comments and
Recommendations on the Draft Buidelines.