Carmen C. Kasner, P.E.
October 25, 2002
City of Del Mar
This letter presents the City of Del Mar’s comments regarding the “Draft ADA
Guidelines for Accessible Public Rights-of-Way Issued by the Access Board on
June 17, 2002”. The overall guidelines do not differentiate between the
characteristics of rights-of-way within different regions in the Country. For
example, the infrastructure of Southern California has little in common with the
major cities on the east coast or middle plains. While it is our firm commitment
to provide for pedestrian accommodation to meet the needs of people with
disabilities the proposed guidelines seem to require a “wide brush”
implementation approach for all types of street systems in the Country which
could result in significant unintended consequences due to the physical
differences of terrain in differing geographic regions of the country.
The proposed guidelines, if implemented, will result in a significant
environmental impact that will probably require the preparation of an
Environmental Impact Report (EIR) by the responsible federal departments. The
EIR and its supporting documents will need to address regional variations and
We ask that a second draft of the proposed guidelines incorporating the comments
and concerns expressed by the different agencies be circulated for additional
review and comment.
Specifically, we would propose flexibility within the guidelines to address the
variety of street systems. While some definitions are provided in the
Right-of-Way Guidelines themselves, other terms lack any such interpretation,
and some definitions refer to other chapters of the ADAAG which do not relate to
public rights-of-way. We have provided below our concerns with particular
definitions, and provided suggested language where appropriate.
It is our opinion that definition for “Alteration” should be established as it
applies to this Chapter, considering it will be the primary trigger for
implementing these regulations.
Referring to the definition provided in the ADAAG is insufficient, because it
relates to structures, rather than streets, sidewalks, and the like. That
existing definition states:
An alteration is a change to a building or facility that affects or could affect
the usability of the building or facility or part thereof. Alterations include,
but are not limited to, remodeling, renovation, rehabilitation, reconstruction,
historic restoration, resurfacing of circulation paths or vehicular ways,
changes or rearrangement of the structural parts or elements, and changes or
rearrangement in the plan configuration of walls and full-height partitions.
Normal maintenance, re-roofing, painting or wallpapering, or changes to
mechanical and electrical systems are not alterations unless they affect the
usability of the building or facility.
This definition fails to specifically address the circumstances unique to public
rights-of- way. We assert that for an alteration to trigger compliance with
Chapter 11, it should in some way effect the accessibility of the right-of-way.
Simply rehabilitating an element to its original condition as a result of
routine maintenance or subsurface work would not constitute an “alteration,” but
rather a “restoration.” As such, we proposed the following definitions:
Any work to a public right-of-way that modifies its physical aspects to an
extent that its access is appreciably affected. Alterations include any
appreciable change to the slope, grade, or elevation of a Pedestrian Access
Route. Alterations do not include resurfacing, slurry sealing, filling potholes
or trenches, or similar work, if the effect is to restore the surface to its
original condition without appreciably affecting the slope, grade, elevation,
transition to sidewalks or other factors of accessibility. The scope of work
required to comply with Chapter 11 shall not extend beyond the precise portion
or aspect of the public right-of-way altered.
An expansion, extension, or increase in the gross surface area of a sidewalk,
roadway, or Pedestrian Access Route. The scope of work required to comply with
Chapter 11 shall not extend beyond the precise portion or aspect of the public
right-of-way which constitutes the addition.
The length of a side of a roadway adjoining a sidewalk which has a natural
ending or is intersected by another roadway. Where no natural ending or
intersecting roadway exists for more than 300 yards along the length of a
roadway adjoining a sidewalk, then an individual Block Face will be considered
every 300 yard section and remaining fraction thereof. For purposes of this
Chapter, Block Face applies exclusively to areas zoned as commercial, business,
or mixed-used, and not residential areas.
An area of newly designed and newly constructed public rights-of-way, which is
not an alteration or addition. The scope of work required to comply with Chapter
11 shall not extend beyond the precise portion or aspect of the public right-of-
way which is considered to be new construction.
Elements in the public right-of-way that are intended for use by pedestrians.
This includes drinking fountains, public telephones, toilet facilities, tables,
Technical Infeasibility includes those circumstances where compliance would
require alterations to existing buildings or structures along the public
right-of-way, interfering with subsurface structures or utilities, and other
factors determined on a cases by case basis. Technical infeasibility shall also
apply to those circumstances where a governmental entity must acquire additional
public right- of-way for compliance through the use of eminent domain,
easements, or similar legal proceedings. Where technical infeasibility is
encountered, compliance is required to the maximum extent possible.
The following are comments that pertain to specific sections of the proposed
1102 Scoping Requirements
The discussion of provisions indicates that pedestrian elements are not required
where none are intended. However, that interpretation is unclear from the
wording of 1102. The discussion also indicates only the elements affected by
construction have to comply with the provisions, but there appears to be areas
of easy misinterpretation such as 1102.4 which states, “The pedestrian access
route shall connect to elements required to comply with Chapter 11. “ This could
increase the scale of work required under this chapter more than intended.
Adoption of a clear definition for “alteration,” such as we have proposed above,
would specify that only the precise features being touched in the alteration are
affected by Chapter 11, and nothing more.
The requirement to acquire right-of-way where “practicable” may have a chilling
effect on projects, which may be technically feasible but have a requirement to
purchase right- of-way from an unwilling seller. Most jurisdictions have the
right to exercise eminent domain provisions, however, that is a very burdensome
and expensive process and may force policy makers to abandon a worthy project
rather than overcome those burdens. We suggest adding language to 1102 which
would have the local government entity: “Acquire public right-of-way where
practicable as determined by the local jurisdiction.” This would provide needed
discretion on the part of those required to comply with these regulations.
Section 1126.96.36.199 is somewhat difficult to read, and could be interpreted to
mean that the governmental entity also has an obligation that extends beyond the
public right-of- way to the accessibility on the adjoining private property of
buildings and facilities themselves. It appears the Board’s intent is to bring
the accessibility of buildings and facilities adjacent to the public
right-of-way up to the standards for new construction, but only to the extent
that it relates to the public right-of-way itself.
Removing ambiguity would encourage compliance as the responsibility of the
government entity would be clear. As such, we propose the following version for
1188.8.131.52 Prohibited Reduction in Access.
An alteration shall not decrease or have the effect of decreasing the
accessibility of a public right-of-way or site arrival points to buildings or
facilities adjacent to the altered portion of the public right-of-way. Such
alterations must meet the requirements for new construction to the maximum
extent feasible, but in no circumstance shall any obligation of accessibility
extend beyond the public right-of-way to the adjacent private property,
buildings or facilities.
In 1102.6 there is a conflict in the requirement to have the ramp located within
the width of each crosswalk and the desire of the advisory committee to
discourage single ramp installations when there are not marked crosswalks and
48” sidewalks are attached to the back of the curb head. The “unmarked
crosswalk” definition, clarifying that a crosswalk is the extension of sidewalk
lines, means that only a single combined ramp could be constructed for the ramps
to be located within the unmarked crosswalks.
1102.14 On-Street Parking.
It is our position that this requirement as currently written is flawed in
several respects. First, it needs to differentiate between residential and
commercial areas. While the need for accessible street parking in business areas
is understandable, since all members of society frequent these locations, the
same cannot be said for residential areas. Only specific areas where disabled
individuals live would necessitate a designated disabled spot in residential
zones. Anything more would be plainly excessive, taking up space that may never
be used. Currently, many agencies in southern California try to accommodate
individual requests in residential areas for designated disabled parking spaces.
With such accommodations available from local governments, residential areas
should be exempt from the requirement of 1102.14.
Second, a working definition of “block face” is needed for areas that do not
have tradition street designs which designate the beginning and end of a block.
Some “block faces” could extend great distances. Clear guidance, as we have
suggested above, would help eliminate this ambiguity.
Third, placing curb ramps at disabled spaces could very well lure mid-block
pedestrian crossing where none was intended. (See section 1109) Encouraging
these spaces to be located at the end of blocks, where accessible curb ramps
already exist, would reduce unsafe street crossings.
Finally, reserving one space per block face, using a traditional city block as a
model, is plainly excessive. Many traditional block faces have but two or three
total spaces, and rarely more than ten. The ADAAG requirements for parking lots
uses a ratio of one disabled space for every twenty five regular spaces, and
even less frequency when total spaces exceeds 100. Requiring on-street parking
to provide such an excessive ratio of disabled spaces, beyond that required in
other parts of the ADAAG, would have the unintended consequence of further
reducing already sparse street parking in urban areas.
We propose using a ratio such as found in the ADAAG section 4.1 .2(5)(a), where
no more than 4 percent of the total spaces are set aside for accessible,
disabled parking. Our proposed version of 1102.14 is as follows:
1102.14 On-Street Parking.
Where on-street parking is provided, at least 4 percent of the total parking
spaces shall be accessible on-street parking spaces and shall comply with 1109.
The location of these spaces shall be as near to primary destination points as
In 1102.15, Passenger Loading Zones, requiring one accessible space in 100
linear feet of loading zone space or fraction thereof is inappropriate where
there is insufficient public right-of-way to comply with cut-out requirements of
503.2, 503.3, and 503.5. This has the effect of limiting our ability to quickly
install passenger loading zone signing and, if these requirements are adopted,
we will not be able to install such signs in the accommodating manner that we
have historically done. We recommend that access aisles adjacent to passenger
loading zones should be eliminated as a mandated construction requirement.
However, should the board mandate this requirement, we would propose adding the
same exemption found for parallel parking spaces (section 1109.2) with the
EXCEPTION: Compliance with this section is not required where the width of the
sidewalk between the extension of the normal curb and boundary of the public
right-of-way is less than 14 feet (4270 mm).
1103 Pedestrian Access Route
On some projects the minimum clear sidewalk width of 48” is infeasible. A 36”
minimum clear width should be allowed as an exception to the 48” minimum where
it is infeasible to provide the 48” clearance due to the cost and practicality
of relocating existing utility structures. In 1103.8 the “changes in level”
section needs to be clarified. It is unclear how to interpret the meaning of
“Changes in level shall be separated horizontally 30 inches minimum.” We do not
understand what this section proposes as it is currently written.
1104 Curb Ramps and Blended Transitions
The wording seems to imply that ramps can only be parallel or perpendicular.
Many times crosswalks are skewed and the allowance of a ramp parallel to the
crosswalk (but not perpendicular to the road) might provide better direction. In
1184.108.40.206 & 1220.127.116.11, it is not obvious why there would be a concern for
specifying a minimum slope.
In 118.104.22.168 it is unclear what a “barrier” entails as it relates to this
section. In 1104.2.3 “Blended Transitions” need to be more clearly defined
Regarding 1104.3.2, the public hearing in Portland, Oregon on October 8, 2002
was filled with blind individuals denouncing detectable warnings as being of
little help, and even presenting safety concerns, because many in the blind
community itself, for whom detectable warnings are intended to aid, objects to
these elements, it is our position that they should not be used at curb ramps,
except when absolutely necessary. If the Board does mandate this requirement, it
is our contention that detectable warnings should only be required for ramps
where the slope is too slight for blind persons to detect, such as 1:15 or less
of a slope.
Also, the requirement to install 2 ramps at each curb return should apply to new
construction projects only and that modifications to the existing roadway which
directly impacts the curb ramp shall not require the installation of two curb
1105 Pedestrian Crossings
In 1105.2.1 the marked crosswalk width is increased from the MUTCD minimum width
of 6 ft. to 8 ft. While this is not much of a hardship on jurisdictions it does
raise an area of concern about the general misconceptions of marked lines on the
roadway. The discussion seems to indicate the extra width will help those with
vision impairments and those who use wheelchairs to pass. Two thoughts about
that concept: 1) the marking material does not provide a “magic zone of
protection” nor does it in any way constrain or confine pedestrians — any
pedestrian can reasonably step beyond the edge of any crosswalk boundary and 2)
there is no requirement to mark any crosswalk. Therefore, the necessity to
exceed the MUTCD widths appears to have no basis. In addition, there may be
instances where the additional width of could become a problem when dealing with
“alterations” and this should be applicable to new construction only. Further,
requiring marked crosswalks to be 96 inches wide minimum while the requirement
for cut through refuge islands is 48 inches (see 1105.4), raises a question as
to how these elements would align. Reconciling these apparent conflicts would be
In 1105.2.2 the maximum cross slope of 1:48 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. This is
particularly true in regions with steeper terrain such as southern California.
Such “tables,” particularly on major roadways, would not only degrade
drivability, but could create a higher risk for accidents because of substandard
vertical curves in the roadway necessary to provide the “tables” and a decreased
sight distance for automobile drivers. Further, even in new construction, the
additional grading necessary to meet this requirement could prove to be
In addition, while such a modification may be technically infeasible, we
nevertheless believe there needs to be an express exemption for the 2%
cross-slope and 5% running slope for walkways at existing intersections. There
are numerous six lane major intersections in cities throughout southern
California with four cross walks. An overlay or intersection modification may
trigger the requirement to flatten that entire intersection to 2%, which would
necessitate regrading hillsides, condemning private property, and countless
other untenable hardships. As such, it should be clearly stated that this
requirement should only apply to new construction.
The 1:20 maximum running slope as specified in 1105.2.3 will not work on higher
speed roadways with “tee” intersections located on horizontal curves. The super
elevation requirements of the through roadway may routinely be as much as 8% or
9%. To reduce this to 5% or less will potentially compromise the safety of the
1105.3 Pedestrian Signal Phase Timing
The requirements of 3 feet per second as the maximum walking time and increasing
the distance to include ramp lengths have the potential for significant
unintended consequences, including a significant increase in traffic delay,
system wide congestion and adversely impacting air quality due to greater
automobile emissions and quite possibly more traffic accidents as a result of
congestion. Most jurisdictions are now timing pedestrian clearance intervals
based on the character of the intersection. Usually, if there is a demonstrated
need for longer clearance times, the jurisdiction will accommodate that need.
However, to mandate increased crossing time when there is not a demonstrated
need will cause unnecessary vehicle delay, which can be directly related to
increased accidents at intersections as well as amplified driver frustration.
This mandate clearly needs to be linked to a demonstrated need for each
individual intersection. Our recommendation would be to require jurisdictions to
develop pedestrian clearance timing in concert with assistance from the disabled
community in identifying intersections where increased crossing times are
necessary, based on the specific requirements of the specific location.
Furthermore, updated technologies could provide for increased crossing time
where specifically requested, such as systems where pedestrians hold the
crossing signal button down for three seconds to make the signal increase the
crossing time based on a walking speed of 3.0 feet per second for that
The current value of 4.0 feet per second given in the MUTCD is appropriate for
the majority of situations. The proposed value of 3.0 feet per second exceeds
even the advisory committee’s recommendation. If the Board is inclined to reduce
the 4.0 feet per second as currently proposed, perhaps a more reasonable
compromise would be 3.5 feet per second. This would provide increased crossing
times, while minimizing the adverse consequences of traffic delays, greater
pollution, and increased traffic accidents.
In 1105.4 the width of the median island is not specified. We would assume it to
be 48,” which is the standard in southern California, however, the discussion
contained in the crosswalk width section could lead one to assume the minimum
width should be 96”. This should be clarified.
1105.5 Pedestrian Overpasses and Underpasses
The requirement to install an elevator or limited-use elevator for applications
where the rise of a ramped approach exceeds 60 inches, will also have unintended
consequences. Since this is a discretionary structure and there are very few
areas that will have a ramped approach of less than 60” a jurisdiction will, in
many cases, forgo the installation of the overpass rather than come up with the
significant additional funds to construct and maintain an elevator. Also, this
requirement may present practical issues and liability issues for a
jurisdiction. An unsupervised elevator which becomes disabled, could be a
dangerous situation for the passengers. Additionally, there are construction and
ongoing maintenance costs which would exceed the traditional ramp approach.
Finally, a stand alone elevator presents a number of public safety issues
including crimes against the public in an unsupervised enclosed area and use by
the homeless population. Some overpasses are located away from populated areas,
and bringing electric power to those locations would be an unreasonable cost.
Further, this is inconsistent with the provisions of 1103.5 that the grade of
sidewalks can be as steep as the adjacent roadway, which, in many cases in
southern California, far exceeds the 1:20 ramp grade. Thus, it is our opinion
that this regulation presents serious issues for all public agencies and would
result in fewer pedestrian overpasses being built. Our recommendation is that
the Board eliminate this requirement and continue to rely on “resting platforms”
at appropriate intervals, like other ramps.
The requirements proposed in this section are not consistent with accessible
pedestrian considerations in other areas. There will also be unintended
consequences associated with these requirements if implemented.
In 1105.6.1 the requirement to install a continuous barrier is not consistent
with other applications where pedestrians are prohibited, yet barriers are not
required. The positive guidance approach is the best way to handle the concern
of pedestrians wandering through the center of the roundabout. As shown in the
discussion page picture, sidewalks and ramp locations can better address
pedestrian channelization than ugly, hard to maintain, hazardous barriers. Also,
as a matter of consistency, if barriers are required here they should also be
required at all “high-design” intersections and even in mid-block locations to
prohibit pedestrian crossings.
In 1105.6.2 the requirement for signalization on every leg of a roundabout
defeats the original purpose of the roundabout concept. Thousands of low-volume,
neighborhood roundabouts are being built, many as traffic calming devices. To
require signals on every leg is cost prohibitive and does not ensure additional
safety benefits. An unintended consequence may be an explosion of drivers
pushing the red light and disrespect for these signals specifically and all
signals generally if the public perceives numerous unwarranted signals have been
A fundamental concept for roundabout crosswalks is the designer must treat each
crossing as a mid-block crosswalk, both in theory and in design. The access
board discussion states, “Because crossing at a roundabout requires a pedestrian
to visually select a safe gap between cars that may not stop, accessibility has
been problematic.” We disagree. The very concept of a roundabout requires
drivers to significantly slow down when approaching the intersection. This
concept presents the pedestrian with a much better opportunity to cross safely.
However, this same problem exists at every mid-block crosswalk! If there is a
mandate to require signals here then the argument could be made that every
crosswalk everywhere should be signalized. Obviously, this is a preposterous
argument, but that is why we use engineering criteria and judgment — so that a
rational balance of perspectives is maintained. Again, the user community has
the ear of jurisdictions and specific needs for each crossing can easily be
accommodated without the imposition of a far-reaching, harsh standard.
Therefore, we suggest either eliminating this requirement altogether, allowing
other portions of Chapter 11 to provide guidance for crossings at roundabouts,
or at the very most mandate the use of traffic warning devices, which would
alert drivers to be especially cautious of pedestrian crossings.
1105.7 Turn Lanes at Intersections
There are literally thousands of existing “slip” lanes at non-signalized
intersections and this design is continuing to be built. Slip lanes at
unsignalized intersections provide a valuable means of allowing vehicles to make
safe turns without impeding the flow of traffic. The imposition of this
requirement would essentially eliminate slip lane design for non-signalized
intersections. This would have the unintended consequence of increased
congestion, which would also increase intersection accidents. We believe a
better solution would be to provide clarification that this section applies only
to signalized intersections, thereby eliminating the need to place traffic
signals where none is needed or intended.
1106 Accessible Pedestrian Signal Systems
We generally agree with the proposal to require pedestrian signal devices that
provide better information and guidance for the pedestrian, even though there
will be a slight increase in installation costs. However, based upon the public
hearing in Portland, Oregon on October 8, 2002 there is a clear indication of
the blind community’s adverse reaction to audible pedestrian signal devices.
Such devices generally mask and confuse the other environmental indicators, such
as traffic noise, which blind persons must use to sense when it is safe to
cross. Although section 1106.3.2 attempts to specify some criteria for audible
pedestrian signal devices, the nature of the sound itself is not addressed.
Either eliminating this section, or adequately addressing the blind community’s
concerns is needed here.
In addition, there is a precision to the location dimensions in 1106.2.1 that
many times simply cannot be met. Subsurface utilities, fire hydrants, or other
preexisting items may directly conflict with the placement provisions of this
section. While moving such infrastructure may not be “technically infeasible,”
doing so would nevertheless present an unwieldy hardship. The “location” wording
should be changed to communicate the concept as a guidance statement rather than
a mandate, or at the very least exempting situations where preexisting features
pose such an obstacle.
In 1106.4 the one area we would object to is the requirement “...of tactile and
visual signs on the face of the device or its housing or mounting indicating
crosswalk direction and the name of the street....” Tactile street name signs
are not required at any other location and to require them on pedestrian
crossing hardware changes these devices from “off the shelf” equipment to custom
devices. This presents a concern of cost, maintenance, and efficacy.
Furthermore, this section fails to specify whether the street names should be in
Braille, raised lettering, an audio message, or some combination of these. When
combining all these features along with a directional arrow and crosswalk
configuration, the unique features required at every individual corner of an
intersection would be clearly cost prohibitive, subject to constant maintenance
to ensure accuracy, and be so convoluted that the information is more confusing
to blind persons than if there were no such signs at all. This is especially
true with regard to crosswalk configurations (1106.4.3), because there is no
standard for graphic indications of intersections.
We agree that directional arrows as required by 1106.4.1 is appropriate.
However, the other technical requirements under 1106.4 should be either omitted
altogether, or be made optional rather than mandatory.
1109 On-Street Parking
The majority of streets in Del Mar are in typically residential neighborhoods.
The City is essentially built out and no major redevelopment is anticipate in
the next 20 years. To require an indented, signed, handicap space on every
residential block does not appear to be what the committee intended. We would
suspect the concern is associated only with areas where there are parking meters
or time limited parking, such as in business areas. Our recommendation would be
to require such handicap spaces only in business or commercial areas, and to
clearly exempt residential areas. This is consistent with our request for
changes to 1102.14, above.
In 1109.2 Parallel Parking Spaces — the requirement to provide a 60” access
aisle is extremely burdensome and will have significant unintended consequences
that will restrict our ability to help the disabled community. Currently we
install handicap signs in both residential and business areas quickly and easily
to accommodate individual and varying requests. The five-foot indent is simply
out of character in residential neighborhoods. With this requirement we will be
unable to continue our policy of “immediately taking care of the disabled
community.” In the future in order to install a handicap space we will have to
propose a capital project to construct a five ft. indent aisle. This means
projects will have to compete with other city projects for very limited funds
and, even if funded, would have large time delays before completion. It also
means we would be unable to respond to changing needs by moving a handicap space
slightly. Once the space is installed we would lose our ability to quickly
change locations to accommodate specific requests. Our recommendation would be
to eliminate this requirement. It does not serve the best tong-term interests of
the disabled community. In addition, the 5’ minimum height of handicap signs is
in violation of the minimum requirements of the MUTCD.
1111 Alternate Circulation Path
The requirement to provide an alternate path is generally correct. However, the
requirement of a path only on the same side of the street, with no provision for
“reasonableness,” is not feasible in many instances. Many times the scope of
construction is such that no pedestrians can be accommodated and, in fact, the
forcing of pedestrians into this type of area may create an intolerable safety
hazard. Simply put, there are situations where pedestrians cannot, or should
not, be accommodated and must be moved to the opposite side of the street or, in
the case of total street closures, moved around an entire block. The guideline
for requiring alternate circulation paths should be a recommendation and not a
requirement. For this reason we propose the following revision to section
The alternate circulation path shall parallel the disrupted pedestrian access
route, on the same side of the street, unless such a path will put pedestrian
safety in greater jeopardy, or impede normal vehicular traffic. In such cases
where the alternate circulation path is not parallel to the disrupted pedestrian
access route, or on the same side of the street, the alternate path shall be
direct and accessible to the maximum extent feasible.
In 1111.6 the requirement of a lower rail within 1 1/2” of the surface does not
make sense since railings only require a rail at 27” for detectability. The
restriction of non-flexible fencing material would appear to be an unnecessary
restriction. Plastic fencing products are now extremely strong, durable and easy
to install and would appear to accommodate the need to provide pedestrian
channelization and protection in a reasonable manner. The allowance of this
material would make it much easier and efficient to provide protection in very
short-term construction areas.
The above comments and suggestions should not be viewed as objections to the
concept of providing reasonable access for the disabled community. We, in the
City of Del Mar, have historically been, and continue to be, in support of
reasonable accommodations within the right-of-way. We have been seeking
direction for uniformity of devices and installation practices for years. Our
desire is to communicate potential pit-falls and unintended consequences
associated with several of the proposed standards and our plea is for balance in
Carmen C. Kasner, P.E.
Assistant City Engineer