Chad J. Smith, P.E.
September 30, 2002
Re: Draft Guidelines on Accessible Public Rights-of-Way as Proposed by the U.S.
Dear Mr. Windley:
It is my understanding the U.S. Access Board is giving the industry an
opportunity to provide ideas and suggestions before going to rulemaking on how
to make the pedestrian environment within public rights-of-way more accessible.
The City of Bloomington, Minnesota has, and will continue, to upgrade pedestrian
facilities to improve mobility of all residents and visitors. However, our
caution is there may be significant unintended consequences with many of the
suggestions coming from the Access Board.
Many of the potential concerns and comments are listed below:
1101.3 Defined Terms: The definition of “Blended Transitions” should be
included. The proposed definition of “Street Furniture” is overly broad.
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. 122.214.171.124 seems to prohibit
the conversion of expressways to freeways or the elimination of intersection or
mid-block crossing locations. 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
In 1102.2 and 1102.3, the requirement to acquire right-of-way construction
easements where “practicable” may have a chilling effect on projects
particularly in areas with high property values, such as the City of
Bloomington, 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 imminent 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.
1102.5.1 would prohibit and require the relocation of many common objects, such
as pole mounted traffic signal cabinets and cabinet mounted electrical meters,
before otherwise needed. Additional right-of-way often will be required for
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.
1102.7.1 requires bus route identification signs located at bus shelters to have
raised and Braille characters. If this sign is mounted at an accessible height
and is reasonably sized, it is likely to conflict with 1102.5.
1103 Pedestrian Access Route: It is unclear how to interpret the meaning of
“Changes in level shall be separated horizontally 30 inches minimum.” It is not
clear if the rail authority or the pedestrian facility authority is responsible
for compliance with 1103.7 and 1103.8. Unless 1103.8.1 allows significant
variations from “level and flush,” this is not practical.
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 1126.96.36.199 and .2.2.1 it is not obvious
why there would be concern for specifying a minimum slope.
In 1188.8.131.52 it is unclear what a “barrier” entails.
In 1104.3.2 it is my contention that detectable warnings should be left to the
discretion of the designer.
1105 Pedestrian Crossings: In 1105.2.1 the marked crosswalk width is increased
from the MUTCD minimum width of 6 feet to 8 feet. While this is not much of
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 absolutely no requirement to mark any
crosswalk. Therefore, the necessity to exceed the MUTCD widths appears to have
In 1105.2.2 the maximum cross slope of 1:48 will require “tables” at each
intersection which will degradate the ride-ability of vehicular traffic and may
compound grade problems in mid-block sections of steep roadways. This may also
cause significant drainage issues.
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
Sec. 1105.3 Pedestrian Signal Phase Timing: The requirements of 3 feet per
second as the maximum walking speed and increasing the distance to include ramp
lengths are both ill conceived and have the potential for significant unintended
consequences. 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.
Congestion is already a major problem which causes diversions to less
appropriate routes and the demand for construction of more capacity which often
results in more lanes, longer crossings, and less pedestrian friendly
environments. 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 based on the specific
requirements of the specific location and uses.
In 1105.4 the width of the median island is not specified. We would assume it to
be 48”, 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. Our recommendation would be to have
“resting platforms” at appropriate intervals like other ramps.
1105.6 Roundabouts: The requirements proposed in this section are ill conceived
and not consistent with accessible pedestrian considerations in other areas.
There will also be unintended consequences associated with these requirements if
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. Since medians are available on most approaches to
roundabouts, they provide the opportunity for pedestrians to select gaps and
cross one traffic stream at a time.
1105.6.2 Signals: The requirement for signization on every leg of every
roundabout is ludicrous. Thousands of low-volume, neighborhood roundabouts are
being built, many as traffic calming devices. To require signals is tremendously
cost prohibitive, does not ensure additional safety benefits and is not
feasible. An unintended consequence may be an explosion of drivers pushing the
red light and disrespect for these signals specifically and all signals
generally if numerous unwarranted signals are installed where drivers perceive
they are being stopped unnecessarily. 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.” However,
this same problem exists at every unsignalized 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.
1105.7 Turn Lanes at Intersections: Again, this is a poorly conceived idea.
There are literally thousands of existing “slip” lanes at unsignalized
intersections (hundreds in the City of Bloomington) and this design is
continuing to be built. The imposition of this requirement would essentially
eliminate slip lane design for signalized and unsignalized intersections. If
these “slip” lanes are eliminated at signalized intersections, crossing lengths
will increase and pedestrians will still be exposed to right turns on red.
Signalizing these pedestrian movements will increase pedestrian delay, decrease
pedestrian level of service and increase pedestrian disrespect of signals. This
would have the unintended consequence of increased congestion (previously
discussed) which would also increase intersection accidents.
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, there is a precision to the location dimensions
that many times simply cannot be met. The “location” wording should be changed
to communicate the concept as a guidance statement without making it a mandate.
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 makes them almost impossible to effectively maintain.
1108 Detectable Warning Surfaces: I am concerned about the complexity of
removing snow and ice with the truncated domes which do not allow a snow shovel
or any of the equipment used by the City of Bloomington to effectively contact
the entire surface area.
1109 On-Street Parking: I believe there was insufficient thought put into these
proposals. The majority of block faces being built each year are in typical
residential neighborhoods where on-street parking (if allowed) supplements
off-street parking. To require an indented, signed, handicap space on every
residential block face is surely not what the committee intended, particularly
if parking is otherwise prohibited. My recommendation would be to require
handicap spaces only in business or commercial areas without off-street parking.
Secondly, in areas such as the City of Bloomington with many short block
lengths, the requirement of one space per block face will be viewed by the
public and our business community as being extremely excessive. The City of
Bloomington has many short block faces with as few as four spaces. If these
requirements are imposed, we will have a tremendously high percentage of
handicap spaces in some areas. In areas with off-street parking, 1109 would be
like designating handicap stalls at the furthest point from the destination.
In 1109.2 Parallel Parking Spaces, the requirement to provide a 60” access aisle
is extremely burdensome and will also have significant unintended consequences
that will restrict the ability to help the disabled community instead of
accommodate them. The five-foot indent is simply out of character in residential
neighborhoods. In the future in order to install a handicap space, we will have
to propose a capital project to construct a five-foot 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. This area
would be very difficult to drain or clear of snow and ice. My recommendation
would be to eliminate this requirement. It does not serve the best long-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 Alt. 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
instance. Many times the scope of construction is such that no pedestrians can
be accommodated and, 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.
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 for jurisdictions to require 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. I have
historically been and continue to be in support of reasonable accommodations
within the right-of-way. My desire is to communicate potential pit-falls and
unintended consequences associated with several of the proposed standards. Since
the local jurisdiction is financially responsible for these facilities and most
closely in contact with the community, the decisions on designs should be left
to the local designers. Guidance and education, not regulations, should be the
approach used for these issues.
Chad J. Smith, P.E.
Traffic & Transportation Engineer