Gene Putman, P.E., P.T.O.E.
October 1, 2002
City of Thornton
Civic Center City Manager’s Office
Re: Draft Guidelines on Accessible Public Rights-of-way as Proposed by the U.S.
Dear Mr. Windley:
I wish to thank you for allowing myself and others an opportunity to provide
comments on the set of Draft Guidelines on Accessible Public Rights-of-way as
proposed by the US Access Board. I have worked my entire professional career (27
years) in the transportation area, and the last twenty-two years for local
government. The ADA requirements originally set into law were needed to address
accessibility for those with disabilities and the past guidelines were found to
be reasonable. Items such as handicap ramps, slopes of inclines, hand rails,
Braille information in elevators and similar items have good basis for
understanding and use.
The new guidelines, dated June 17, 2002, have been reviewed by engineers,
planners, park and open space planners, and construction management staff within
the City of Thornton over the past month. Every person involved in this review
has express considerable concern on the effects and cost to the citizens of our
city to implement these guidelines on accessible public right- of-ways.
The following is a listing of concerns and comments that I have received and
compiled from the ‘Draft Guidelines on Accessible Public Rights-of-Way’ for this
Background — The document states “Board developed a series of videos, an
accessibility checklist, and a design guide on accessible public rights-of-way.
…. made this information widely available to the public.” While I have seen some
printed documentation on these original guidelines, none of us have ever seen
any videos, or an accessibility checklist that are widely available to the
public. One might think that these guidelines (videos, and checklist) would have
been provided to each local government for implementation.
1101.2 Referenced Standards — At the June 2002 meeting of the National Committee
on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD), the Federal Highway Administration
(FHWA) received comments from the committee on possible changes to the Manual On
Uniform Traffic Control Devices relating to ADA. After three days of 12 and 14
hours of by its technical committee the NCUTCD informed FHWA that the requested
changes needed further review and comments due to the complex nature and volume
such a review would take time. The NCUTCD is an organization of professional
members dedicated to making the public right-of- ways as safe as possible for
the public. While your advisory committee is made up of 33 members, the NCUTCD
is made up of over 170 members. Please allow this professional group the time
needed to review these guidelines and provide positive workable solutions for
1101.3 Defined Terms — Several items in the draft guidelines need a definition
that all can understand what the meaning and intent of the guideline. While you
may understand the terms, this does not mean everybody else does. Terms that
need to be defined are: ‘Blended Transitions’, ‘Technically Infeasible’,
‘Maximum Extent Practicable’, ‘Parallel Ramps’, and ‘More than 1/2 inch in one
dimension’. Where possible, it might be more informative to include a diagram
for the defined term.
1102.2 Additions and Alterations - The guidelines state “Compliance in
alterations is required except where it is ‘technically infeasible”. With enough
money, anything is technically feasible, but it does not mean it is practical or
The guidelines state “work might be technically feasible at other locations
where acquiring additional right-of-way is practicable”. Again with enough
money, the acquinng of additional right-of-way is always practicable, but does
it mean that it is cost effective or necessary to buy the additional
right-of-way. Where is the cost benefit? Installing new facilities at the cost
of tens and thousands of dollars to be used only four or five times a year does
not seem worthy.
1102.3 & 1111 Alternate Circulation Path — In regards to the construction of new
facilities and reconstruction and improvement to existing facilities the
guidelines state “location on the same side of the street parallel to disrupted
pedestrian access route”. This requirement to have the disrupted pedestrian
access route “on the same side of the street”, will be exceedingly costly, and
detrimental to making transportation projects cost effective in the eyes of the
general public. Having a disrupted pedestrian access route use the opposite side
of the street when the existing facility is under rehabilitation or improvements
is logical and cost efficient when the other side is usable.
The statement that traffic cones placed around a construction site are not
detectable by some pedestrians are true for the visually disabled. Thus on most
construction sites, the contractor will then just close the pedestrian access
route instead of providing a detectable barrier around the obstruction. The
contractor will take the road to compliance that cost the least and saves time.
It seems appropriate that the US Access Board should get with the NCUTCD and
develop a system that is cost effective and easy to install and maintain.
1103.3 Minimum Clear Width — The only concern that has developed is with the
statement of “excluding the width of curbs”. In the City of Thornton, we have
several sidewalks and curbs sections that are monolithic combinations. I think
that excluding the width of curb is unnecessary. If they are monolithic concrete
pours and the surface is in the same plane as the pedestrian access path than
why exclude the curbs width?
1103.5 Grade — Since these guidelines will be used by both engineers and
construction staff it might be good to state slope of more than 5% after the
“slope more than 1:20” that it would be good to state slope of more than 5%. I
asked four concrete contractors staff if they knew what it meant the 1:20 term
and only one knew what it meant; however when given 5% all knew what it meant.
Additionally the section is a contradiction. First is states that a pedestrian
accessible route with a slope of greater than 5% be treated as a ramp. It also
states that ramps must have handrails on both sides, edge protection, and
intermediate level landings. I must then understand from this statement that all
ramps; i.e. at intersection must have handrails. If this is what is meant then
there is a problem of understanding safety and who is it safer for.
1103.6 Surfaces — It states that the surface should be free of irregular surface
features, such as granite payers, cobblestone, and other rough and jointed
surfaces. This is very odd, in that it is the citizens that are asking for these
types of payers and other surfaces to indicate the pedestrian surface and make
it different from others. Patterned Concrete is used to a greater extent on
cross walks to show the location of the crosswalk since in winter climates it
does not wear off like paint. If there is a problem with this type of surface
than state a unique standard of surface roughness rather than an across the
board statement of what may not be used.
Several others and I have read the phrase “more than 1/2 inch in one dimension”
and we can not understand what the meaning is. There needs to be a drawing to
show meaning or it should be better described.
1103.7 Surface Gaps at Rail Crossing — One of the statements seems to be
backwards for most cases, “require detectable warning at the outside of eath
group of tracks that cross the pedestrian access route”. In most cases the rail
tracks were there in the location before the pedestrian route was. So, it should
be “require detectable warning at the outside of each group of tracks which the
pedestrian access route crosses”.
Since most rail crossings have some material for vehicle and pedestrian
crossings that is flush with the rail, maybe the Access Board should work with
the Rail Technical Committee and the Pedestrian Technical Committee of the MUTCD
to come up with a tactile surface that is uniformly used to indicate the
pedestrian crossing area and the vehicular crossing area.
1102.6 & 1104 Curb Ramps and Blended Transitions — The statement that a single
ramp will not work and that it directs the pedestrian in the wrong direction is
not understandable. See the attached drawing of a single ramp and the double
ramps that is written in the text. This is when the old adage of” a picture is
worth a thousand words” comes to mind. I find that the single ramp would be less
of a problem than the double. I disagree with the statement that a “driver may
not be as alert to a person crossing at the apex of a corner I would say that
the driver is more likely to expect the pedestrian at the apex versus at the
point of the double ramp. The double ramp will expose the pedestrian to a longer
distance to cross versus the single ramp at the apex.
1126.96.36.199 Blended Transitions - In the information provided on the Internet
(many of us can not determine if the diagram that is shown to the right is for a
Blended Transition or the Common Elements. If it is the blended transitions,
then in locations were snow and ice occur in winter, the flat area in the radius
of the curve would be a place that snow, ice, and water that freezes in to ice
would accumulate. In addition, large radius corners that are 30 to 40 feet would
be an area that trucks and their trailers would encroach due to a large area
1102.7.1 Bus Route Identification — The requirement to have tactile information
and Braille at bus shelters is going to be very expensive. The amount of
information that is provided about bus routes, their frequency, stops and
destination will require large areas and would be difficult to maintain. The use
of audible signs to substitute for tactile signage will cause adjacent property
owners to complain about the noise it would generate. This information may be
needed, but the cost and application requires further research and testing in
1105.2 Crosswalks — The maximum cross slope of 1:48 or 2% is and will be very
difficult to maintain and achieve. Most governmental standards are for cross
slopes to be between 2 and 4 percent. This requirement will be excessively
costly and a heavy burden to the taxpayers to retrofit and maintain. This
requirement as stated to form “tabled areas” in areas that are hilly. I see that
rebuilding the streets in San Francisco and Seattle will be costly. Maybe we
should just bulldoze every street and flatten the cities. These requirements are
not logical or feasible.
1105.3 Pedestrian Signal Phase Timing — This requirement, like the crosswalk
requirements is not logical and beyond being feasible. This requirement will
cause considerable increases in congestion, air pollution, and possible road
The modification to change the walk speed from 4 seconds per foot to 3 seconds
will cause significant and unintended negative consequences for the rest of the
1105.5 Pedestrian Overpasses and Underpasses — My concern regarding the
requirement that if the change in elevation is more than 60 inches (5 feet) in
the pedestrian access route, an elevator access would be required. This is the
requirement that causes the most questioning of the logic of these new
guidelines by all professionals that I have talk to. This requirement causes the
most outrage, negative comments that it does not pass the laugh test for
reality, and brings into question the Access Board and it Advisory Committee.
All have stated that if this becomes a requirement that the construction of
pedestrian overpasses or underpasses will end in the USA without large sums of
funds. Citizens will be required to cross six lanes of traffic, not be able to
cross-rivers and streams due to the excessive cost to build and maintain the
elevator at overpasses and underpasses. Please reevaluate this requirement, for
it is very costly, and has the intent of causing consequences that the public a
large will not under stand or accept.
1105.6 Roundabouts — The requirements stated in this section are poorly
conceived and unsafe. The requirement for barriers would cause the roundabout
area to be ugly, difficult and expensive for maintenance staff to maintain, and
like so many of the new guidelines costly to install. The guidelines are not
consistent from one section to another. The photo that is shown does not have
all of the requirements stated.
1105.6.2 Signals — The requirement for signalization on every leg of every
roundabout is a joke. One of the main reason that roundabout are coming into use
is to get away from signalization, its cost to maintain and the congestion it
causes. Now the guidelines will require exactly what we were trying to get away
from, and that is the most ludicrous bit of logic.
1105.7 Turn Lanes at Intersections — These requirements will cause significant
cost for installation and maintenance to the public. This will clutter the
intersection, placing more and more barriers in the path of pedestrians and
vehicles resulting in injuries and, in some cases, death.
1102.8 and 1106 Accessible Pedestrian Signal System — Advances in pedestrian
signal systems is going on and improving each day. The extent of the
requirements for a traffic signal with all of these pedestrian signal
requirements are so expensive that they will double the cost to install and
The requirements are not logical and will be questioned by the public at large
as being silly.
The Audible Walk Indication (1106.2.3): to have voice or tone audible indication
of the WALK interval at 2dB go 5dB above constant ambient noise levels will
require excessive cost for both the installation and the maintenance. This
automatic adjustment to ambient noise levels is neither practical nor warranted
and thus ill conceived.
I can already hear the complaints from residents about the noise pollution at
night when the signal near their home can be heard at 5dB above the 30dB
ambient. These requirements will cause a revolt and lead to calls that all of
these new devices are removed as soon as possible, i.e., the next day.
The amount of additional street furniture (signal equipment) at intersections
will cause safety concerns in that we now have a reasonable clear area for
pedestrians but now will be installing excessive additional poles and equipment.
1108 Detectable Warning Surfaces — All commentators agree that the two-foot wide
area for truncated domes is an improvement to the existing standard. However, we
feel that the idea is not well conceived in areas that have snow and ice for
several months of the year. These truncated domes do not allow for snow shovels
to effectively remove the snow and ice. The snow shovel does not come in
complete contact with the walk surface. This will result in snow and ice being
left on the surface causing slips and falls for the pedestrian using these
areas. Please rethink the use of the truncated domes and research other forms of
detection. If a local government was to get have legal difficulties due to a
person falling and being injured, I think that the Access Board would soon be a
party to these difficulties.
1102.14 and 1109 On-Street Parking — These new requirement are going to cause
such a revolt from the general public. I can not wait to tell them who caused
these requirements and to provide them the Access Board’s address and that of
their congressional delegation. If there is one thing that people hold dear to
their heart is the ability to park in front of their home, for most times there
is only room for one or two vehicles. I can see it now; an order will be placed
with the traffic operation section to install an ADA parking space on each block
face in every street inducing residential in the City. First, the staff will ask
what new budget number to charge the $100,000+++ cost for signs, pavement
markings, and police protection. It will be a hard decision to pick which
citizen to make mad on each block when we install the ADA parking space. The
revolt will end up at a City Council meeting, where the Mayor will inform the
overflowing crowd that we are only following federal requirements. They will
demand that they be remove. They will then go after their congressional
delegation were they will demand that the requirement be remove or they will be
remove at the next election (2 Years) at which time the Access Board will be
history. The requirements need to be reasonable, and these are not.
The illogic requirements continue with the parallel space and access aisle.
Having to install indented curb lines similar to a loading zone is again very
costly. This inappropriate logic continues in the passenger loading zones.
The above comments and suggestions are common ones expressed by the City of
Thornton staff and are just the major ones. We wish to serve and assist the
disabled community as best we can in relation to the other citizens in the
community with the resources and staff we can. Funding is not limitless and the
requirements set forth in this the Guidelines for Accessible Public
Rights-of-Way will be very costly both initially and in the future with
maintenance. We request that you reevaluate these requirements and their impact
on the public as a whole.
These new guidelines have caused hours of comments and discussion. We desire to
provide information and comments on the problems, costs, and unintended
consequences that these requirements will cause. Please reevaluate these
Gene Putman, P.E., P.T.O.E.
Special Projects Manager — City Manager’s Office
City of Thornton