Donald J. Stypula
October 27, 2002
MICHIGAN MUNICIPAL LEAGUE
RE: Michigan Municipal League Comments on Draft Revisions to ADAAG
Dear Sir or Madam:
On behalf of the Hon. Kate Lawrence, President, the Board of Trustees and the
more than 500 municipalities that are part of the Michigan Municipal League (MML),
I am transmitting -via this letter --our formal comments on the proposed
revisions to the guidelines for application of the Americans With Disabilities
Act to public facilities and rights-of-way. These comments -compiled after
consultation with municipal managers and public works directors from MML-member
communities across Michigan --reflect our sincere concerns, not only with the
proposed guidelines, but also with the manner by which public comment on these
proposed guidelines is being solicited.
To facilitate an orderly discussion and critique of these draft guidelines, our
comments are organized according to the headings of each section.
Concerns With the Public Comment Process
The MML and its member communities are very concerned with the fact that these
guidelines have been published for comment only on the Internet. To our
knowledge, no direct mailings to state associations, like MML, nor individual
mailings or communications to individual municipalities have been transmitted to
ensure that local governments were made aware of these proposed guidelines. This
is especially troubling given the fact that cities, villages, townships and
counties across Michigan - and the nation --will be required to comply with
these proposed guidelines and pay all costs associated with the structural
modifications required by these draft guidelines.
We believe that the close of the official public comment period should trigger a
series of public hearings across the country to give both individuals and public
corporations affected by these proposed guidelines an opportunity to articulate
Comments on Specific Sections of the Guidelines
Section 1101: Application and Administration
We have no specific comments or recommendations on this section.
Section 1102: Scoping Requirements
The MML believes that "alterations" is not well defined. With the plethora of
differing requirements for sidewalks, ramps, and on-street parking, it is still
unclear what types of modifications require what type of changes. For example,
when a block of street is resurfaced but curbs are not changed, do on-street
disabled parking spaces need to be added at that point? If sidewalks are
replaced but curbs are not changed, do parking space loading zones need to be
added or not?
Section 1102.2.2 provides for exceptions where it is "technically infeasible" to
do so. This language will force courts to decide the feasibility of projects and
remove this decision-making authority from municipal managers and engineers.
Some modifications, while technically feasible, require thousands of dollars in
expenditures to achieve minor benefits, especially in older downtown areas.
Section 1102.2.2 essentially requires that any previously accessible site entry
points to the right-of- way continue to be accessible following right-of-way
alterations. This poses a significant challenge for downtown areas of our
state's cities and villages. For example, many existing downtown buildings have
doorways flush with the adjacent sidewalk. However, the top of the curb line is
often over 12 inches below the doorways, while the building faces are 15 feet
from the curb horizontally. To replace the flush doorways with lips would make
the buildings inaccessible and violate this section, however, replacing the
sidewalk can result in cross slopes of over 6%, which also violate the 1:48
cross slope provision in the current ADA. This concern is virtually ignored by
these draft guidelines.
Section 1102.14 requires one accessible parking space per block face. This is
requirement is a costly mandate that defies common sense. Forcing communities to
construct accessible spaces on every block face will add onto municipal street
systems numerous spaces that will never be used.
Section 1103: Pedestrian Access Route
As stated earlier, requiring a 2% (1:48) cross slope is nearly impossible in
built-up downtown areas where the sidewalk extends from curb to building line.
While this requirement is somewhat easier to achieve in residential areas where
grass terraces separate the curb from the sidewalk, we still feel it is unduly
If changes in level must be separated by 30 inches horizontally, as per 1103.8,
how can different slopes for a) the cross slope of the paved street, b) the
street side slope of the gutter, c) the section of curb behind the flow line,
and d) the ramp leading to the curb, be accommodated within the 24 inches that
is typical for a curb and gutter section? Even if the ramp and curb behind the
flow line have the same slope, it is very difficult to always match the gutter
fore slope to that of the adjoining street and thus two level changes MUST occur
within 30 inches.
Section 1104: Curb Ramps and Blended Transitions
1104.2.1 requires that all ramps meet the curb line at right angles. This, of
course, is nearly impossible to do in most cases, and will likely result in all
ramp crossings being offset from the running sidewalk leading into them. For
example, in many Michigan cities, most sidewalks are installed 1 foot inside the
right-of-way line, and most rights-of-way are no more than 66 feet wide total,
with the paved streets centered on the right-of-way. Assuming even a
26-foot-wide street (13 on each side of the right-of-way centerline) with comer
radii of 25 feet (typical), this would place the ramp between 5 and 9 feet
minimum outside of the right-of-way line extended of the intersecting street.
All walks would have to be offset by 6 to 10 feet, obviously causing a great
deal of confusion for visually impaired pedestrians, and encouraging cyclists to
"jump" the curb in line with their chosen path rather than divert to the ramp
118.104.22.168 requires a minimum ramp running slope of 1:48. We believe it is
wasteful to further constrain design by requiring a minimum grade that has no
1104.3.3. states that no utility castings may be placed within ramps. Again, as
other utilities must share the right-of-way with sidewalks in existing developed
communities, it is very likely that established manhole covers are located at
the intersection of utilities serving opposing streets. Removing these castings
from these locations will usually involve completely relocating the ramps as
utility lines cannot often be moved without great expense.
1104.3.4 and 1104.3.5 do not allow any vertical transition at curbs, which
essentially disallows an) "lips." Lips allow runoff water to usually be
contained within the curb line itself, thus preventing water from ponding into
the ramp area during heavy rain events. Elimination of any lips, even though as
small as 1/2" in height which can be easily managed by wheelchair users, will
result in full gutter spilling into the ramps as well, which during freezing
conditions (significant in many areas of Michigan) becomes a severe hazard to
wheelchair users attempting to stop before entering the street.
1104.3.7 requires a "clear space" of 48 inches by 48 inches be provided within
the roadway beyond the crosswalk and outside of the travel lane. This can be
possible for streets where parking is allowed, however, where the traveled way
is adjacent to the curb this becomes a mandate to eliminate travel lanes. In
dense urban settings, roadway capacity is a scarce resource indeed, and reducing
travel widths of arterial streets by 8 feet is completely unacceptable.
Section 1105: Pedestrian Crossing
Section 1105.2.2 requires that cross slopes on crosswalks be 1 :48 maximum. What
about situation where the roadway at the intersection is steeper than 1 :48?
This requirement could create numerous problems for many cities. For example, to
flatten the crosswalk of a street with 5% grade to 2%, either the entire
intersection would have to be flattened to 2%, resulting in a huge grade
difference from the "lay of the land" that must be corrected on one side or the
intersection or the other, or on the crosswalks would have to be flattened,
which would create "humps" in the pavement, as the roadway transitions from 5%
to 2% then back to 5% very quickly.
Many Michigan communities set pedestrian crossing speeds of3.0 feet per second
near schools and areas where large numbers of elderly pedestrians cross. While
this is certainly a worthwhile goal, it is inappropriate to mandate this at all
locations as contemplated in 1105.3.
Section 1105.5.3 would require elevator devices for any "overpass or underpass"
with a ramp run over 60 inches. We believe that this is a significant waste of
taxpayer money for something that will require an inordinate amount of
maintenance and be subject to vandalism, given the relatively low benefit it
Although most Michigan cities and villages currently have no roundabouts, we
believe that section 1105.6.2 would likely ensure that these would never be an
option available to municipal officials. The requirement for signalization of
pedestrian crossings would not only defeat the purpose of a continuously
flowing, low-speed intersection, but would be a detriment to safety by requiring
motorists attempting to leave the roundabout to stop for up to 20 seconds to
allow a pedestrian to cross, backing up all traffic in all directions of the
Section 1105.7 (left turn and right turn "slip lanes") is very similar to
1105.6.2 in that traffic signals at these locations would defeat their purpose
and cause traffic to back up into through lanes unexpectedly.
Section 1106: Accessible Pedestrian Signal Systems
The MML believes that audible pedestrian crossing signals, while appropriate for
downtowns and other commercial areas, are not appropriate for use in residential
areas. Vandalism would be a particular concern where residents become annoyed
with the constant "chirping" sounds. Further, the cost of devices that would
adjust the audible sounds to the ambient noise level will certainly be an added
expense with minimal returns.
1106.2.1 requires all pedestrian "devices", which is assumed to mean push
buttons, be located at least 10 feet apart. This may be impossible in many
cases, and does not seem to have any real benefit to disabled pedestrians.
Section 1107: Street Furniture
We have no specific comments or recommendations on this section.
Section 1108: Detectable Warning Surfaces
The MML believes that these are an unnecessary expense. We feel that they also
could be easily damaged in climates, like Michigan's, where snow removal is
required in the winter .
We question why no change in level is allowed at curbs, but 1/4 " truncated
domes are considered acceptable on ramps.
Section 1109: On-Street Parking
This section of the proposed guidelines has by far the greatest potential
financial impact on Michigan cities and villages. As stated earlier, this
amounts to a requirement to place 800 to 1000 accessible spaces in locations
where they may not be of any benefit. In addition, the presence of a "bump-in"
from the curbs in a residential area will rob fronting residents of terrace
space, and alter the appearance of curb lines. In historic neighborhoods, this
can have a very detrimental visual impact. While we cannot accurately compute
cost estimates for this work, we do estimate that it would cost Michigan cities
and villages millions of dollars to construct spaces on each block. Lacking
funding to comply with this requirement, many cities and villages would choose
to prohibit on-street parking in many locations. This would decrease the
accessibility of the street system in most communities.
Beyond the sheer costs of this construction lie the construction difficulties.
As stated earlier, the typical right-of-way on many city and village streets is
66 or 60 feet. Assuming a 28-foot wide street (14 on each side of the
right-of-way centerline), 60-foot wide right-of-way (30 feet each side of
centerline), and 4-foot wide sidewalks placed one foot inside the right-of-way
line, this leaves 11 feet between the "running" curb line and the sidewalk. 5
feet would then be "borrowed" from the terrace for use as the loading zone,
leaving only 6 feet for the ramp at a maximum slope of 1:12, or maximum rise of
0.48 feet or 6 inches. This would require the sidewalk to be no higher than the
normal top of curb, assuming a 6-inch high curb. All terraces would essentially
be flat, and drainage would pond in the sidewalk areas, also creating a hazard
to pedestrians. Many Michigan communities could not comply with this provision.
Section 1110: Call Boxes
We have no specific comments or recommendations on this section.
Section 1111: Alternate Circulation Path
1111.3 requires that all alternate circulation paths be located on the same side
of the street as the original facility. This is impossible to achieve in
projects such as downtown streetscape, where the entire sidewalk must be removed
and replaced, or for some types of work involving large scaffolding for building
renovation. In residential areas, this requirement essentially amounts to a
requirement to place a "temporary" concrete sidewalk in the terrace when
sidewalk removal closes the original sidewalk. This is a complete waste of
taxpayer money that could be spent on permanent sidewalks in other areas of a
The Michigan Municipal League believes that these proposed rules have the effect
of encouraging developers and communities to avoid building sidewalks, thereby
making society less accessible for disabled persons and pedestrians in general.
We believe these rules also encourage wide rights-of- way and urban sprawl.
While these rules may fit reasonably well in urban fringes with lower-density
development that are generally not as pedestrian- friendly, they do not work at
all in dense urban settings. Also, due to the huge burden imposed by forcing the
installation of accessible on-street parking spaces on every block face, these
proposed guidelines will also encourage communities to remove on-street parking
to avoid installing these spaces, which in turn will create higher speed
neighborhood streets that further discourage pedestrian activity.
These comments are general in nature and do not necessarily include all possible
impacts of these proposed guidelines on cities and villages in our state. We
believe, as previously stated, that local governments have not been given ample
time and/or notification to provide comment on these proposed requirements
before they go into effect. While nearly all can agree with the spirit of
allowing accessibility of public rights-of -way to persons of all abilities,
these proposed guideline to not achieve a reasonable balance in doing so. We
strongly urge you to consider all of the comments stated above before making
final recommendations in this matter. We also reiterate our view that public
hearings around the country would give all stakeholders an opportunity
articulate their point-of-view on these guidelines. Please feel free to contact
me at 517-485-1314 if you should have an questions.
THE MICHIGAN MUNICIPAL LEAGUE
Donald J. Stypula
Manager, Environmental Affairs
State & Federal Affairs Division