David A. Sprynczynatyk, P.E.
|October 23, 2002|
AASHTO COMMENTS ON PROPOSED ADA GUIDELINES
The North Dakota Department of Transportation would like to thank the U.S. Access Board for the opportunity to comment on the draft Guidelines for Accessible Public Rights-of-Way.
We know that it is important to make our transportation system accessible to persons with disabilities but, at the same time we must be reasonable in that effort because we are constrained by the terrain and the resources we have to work with.
We have reviewed the draft Guidelines in detail. We also reviewed AASHTO’s comments and recommendations and in general endorse and reinforce them.
In addition to AASHTO’s comments we have some specific comments to make:
This document is entitled Guidelines but, the document is replete with the word “shall” which makes it a requirement. With the word “shall” it opens the field for lawsuits because if the facilities are not done exactly according to the mandate it may be considered Prima Facie evidence of negligence. This means, the person bringing the suit would not have to prove negligence but merely the fact that it was not done pursuant to the Guidelines. Also, “shall” takes away all judgement and that is not a good idea. State DOTs and cities need the flexibility to exercise good judgement in designing and building transportation facilities to best meet the needs of persons with disabilities and the motoring public. This document does not allow the exercise of judgement.
We strongly recommend that “shall” be changed to “should” and/or “may” as would best fit the situation. State DOTs and cities need this flexibility which allows them to apply the resources where they are needed.
Section 1103.4--The cross slope of the pedestrian access route shall be 1:48 maximum.
Section 1105.2.2-- The cross slope of crosswalks shall be 1:48 measured perpendicular to the direction of travel. Exception: This requirement shall not apply to mid-block crossings.
This may be workable in relatively flat terrain but, it’s not reasonable in hilly terrain. The example grade of nine percent given in the discussion part of the document would require changing from a nine percent grade to a two percent grade every block. This will result in a series of vertical curves on the roadway that will make it ride like a roller coaster. This will be totally unacceptable to the public using the facility. The adjacent buildings and sidewalks would be at higher or lower elevations than the street. Retaining walls would be needed. It would have significant impacts on underground utilities and drainage systems. It could cause significant snow problems in the northern part of the country. The cost to do this in hilly or even in fairly rolling terrain would be extreme. State DOTs and the cities need the ability to exercise judgement in designing these facilities to best meet the needs of persons with disabilities and the motoring public.
We endorse AASHTO’s recommendation which is to, “tie the implementation of this guideline to the existing topography in the project area. The Guidelines should state that the cross slope of the crosswalk should be the minimum possible while still providing a roadway design that meets accepted roadway design criteria.”
Section 1103.8--Changes in level shall comply with 303. Changes in level shall be separated horizontally 30 inches minimum. Exception: The horizontal separation requirement shall not apply to detectable warnings.
This provision would allow a maximum vertical change in level of 1/4 inch (or up to ½ inch with a bevel). The only way to maintain a maximum of 1/4 inch is to construct continuously reinforced sidewalk if constructed of concrete. This would add significantly to the cost of the sidewalk. If constructed of asphalt, it would require significant inspection and maintenance. All of these added costs would enter into the justification of constructing sidewalks. In addition, with a shall condition it would leave the agencies wide open to lawsuits.
Our recommendation concurs with AASHTO which was a proposal for a research study to look into appropriate construction tolerances for the issues found in these Guidelines and they recommended that the Access Board “reserve” this section until the project is complete. In addition, AASHTO proposed working with the Access Board to determine appropriate and achievable monitoring systems for these issues.
Section 1104.3.2--Detectable warning surfaces complying with 1108 shall be provided where a curb ramp landing or blended transition connects to a crosswalk.
In 1992 the NDDOT constructed two urban projects specifying the truncated dome surface. The results were less than satisfactory. They raised all kinds of problems with wheelchairs and even the visually impaired did not like them.
The city of Bismarck, North Dakota, has a curb ramp committee and they were asked to review this type of surface. They worked with people using wheelchairs and the visually impaired and the conclusion was not to use the truncated domes and go back to the surface we had been using for years. We use a 1:12 maximum slope rate on the ramp and this appears sufficiently detectable by the visually impaired.
We contacted the Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, both in 1992 and just a few days ago, and asked if they were still of the same opinion that they did not want the domes, and they stated that they were. They again brought up their concerns for snow removal and ice build up on these domes.
We would recommend that the section be written that the slope have detectable warnings without specifying the type and leave it to the judgement of the engineers working with such committees as our Governor’s committee and the City’s committees to determine what is the most satisfactory detectable surface. When the people for whom the surface is intended to benefit tell us they don’t want them, we should listen. Therefore, we strongly recommend dropping the specific reference to truncated domes.
Section 1105.2.1--Marked crosswalks shall be 96 inches wide minimum.
This can’t possibly be based on need. The probability of two wheelchairs meeting on a crosswalk is very low even on the busiest of urban intersections. Even if they should happen to meet, it certainly can’t be a problem to make a slight adjustment in the line of travel. This requirement is unnecessary and unreasonable.
Our recommendation is to strongly reinforce AASHTO’s recommendation of staying consistent with the MUTCD requirement of 72 inches.
Section 1105.3--All pedestrian signal phase timing shall be calculated using a pedestrian walk speed of 3.0 feet per second maximum.
This gives no flexibility to agencies, it’s a one size fits all and it’s not necessary. The MUTCD gives us the flexibility of using what the situation calls for. Again don’t take away the judgement of state DOTs and cities.
We strongly reinforce the AASHTO recommendation of using the criteria in the MUTCD.
Section 1105.5.3--Where the approach to a Pedestrian Overpass or Underpass exceeds 1:20, the approach shall be a ramp 48 inches in width minimum and shall comply with 405. Where the rise of a ramped approach exceeds 60 inches, an elevator complying with 407, or a limited- use/limited-application elevator complying with 408 shall be provided.
The DOT has a number of these structures on the system and they have been in place and in use for many years and we have not had one suggestion that elevators are needed at these facilities. This does not appear to be a requirement based on need.
In our state it’s hard to justify these structures in the first place and then requiring elevators would probably eliminate them from the system except for where they absolutely are needed. This to us seems counter productive.
We have always been concerned with security at these structures. Who knows who could be waiting when someone stepped out of the elevator.
The needs on the transportation system far exceed the resources to meet those needs and we can’t afford new unfunded mandates that are not needed.
We recommend that the agencies have the flexibility that would best fit the situation, and strongly endorse AASHTO’s recommendation.
In conclusion, we want to emphasize that state DOTs and cities need the flexibility to exercise sound judgement in designing our transportation system and that includes providing a system that is accessible to persons with disabilities. We work with local committees to get their input as what would best fit their needs. In one instance when we were looking at providing a pedestrian overpass, we visited with the Governor’s Committee to get their input and they stated, “just give us a curb cut and an at grade crossing.” That’s what was built at considerable less cost.
We feel it’s important to have this ability. By making all these mandates, persons with disabilities in the local areas get no say in what type of facility is to be provided.
The Access Board got off to a good start with the title “Guidelines” but, quickly got away from guidelines and made all the provision’s mandates.
We strongly urge the Access Board to truly make the provision’s “Guidelines” and give state DOTs, cities, and local people with disabilities the flexibility to provide accessability to the transportation system that best meets their needs. Don’t try to make one size fit all. No matter how you look at it, one size just does not fit. Again, thank you for the opportunity to comment.
DAVID A. SPRYNCZYNATYK, P.E. - DIRECTOR
North Dakota Department of Transportation
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