Parker F. Williams
|October 17, 2002|
COMMENTS TO THE US ARCHITECTURAL AND
TRANSPORTATION BARRIERS COMPLIANCE BOARD
(The "Access Board’)
On Draft ADA Accessibility Guidelines
on Accessible Public Rights of Way
Submitted by the Maryland State Highway Administration
The Maryland State Highway Administration wishes to comment upon the proposed ADAAG provisions for Public Rights of Way. Our comments are offered in the order outlined in the Draft ADAAG. However, we wish to note that comments are being requested on a document that heavily references or cross-references another document (other provisions of the existing ADAAG) currently under revision. Nevertheless, we have attempted to give general comments, impacts and recommendations (or alternatives), where possible. Where a section is not noted, we have no comments at this time. Due to the uniqueness of individual projects and or regional differences across the state, it is difficult to quantify cost impacts. The cost of not doing certain projects because of the additional costs or undue burden placed upon agencies is not calculable.
Regarding cost, SHA strongly supports clarification of the "undue financial burden" language contained in the law. We would propose clarifying language setting a threshold for undue burden pegged to a certain percentage of a specific project. We would not, however, propose or support undue burden language targeted to a DOT’s entire capital spending program
1101 APPLICATION AND ADMINISTRATION
1101.2 Referenced Materials
Comments – Sole reference is made to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) guidelines. The highway design and construction industry also relies heavily on the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials 2001 (AASHTO) Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets (formerly, the Green Book). The lack of reference, and possibly recognition of the application of engineering principles contained in it, is a detriment.
Impacts – A document used for design and field application that does not recognize these principles causes confusion and contradiction. While the AASHTO Policy may be somewhat broad in certain areas, we believe it is purposefully so to accommodate variations in the field. Lack of reference to and compatibility with certain sections unduly constrain design and construction engineers who must adapt to a range of field conditions.
Recommendations - Practices and specifications should be reconciled with the AASHTO Policy and modified to the extent necessary to accommodate field-tested experience reflected in the AASHTO policy book. In addition, throughout the proposal, numerical requirements are given as a "shall" requirement. When these requirements are combined with other design standards, surely situations will arise where design exceptions will be required. Provisions for such exceptions should be part of the guidelines. Much in the way that the MUTCD makes distinctions about "shall" (standard/must), "should" (guidance) and "may" (option). We would urge the Access Board to adopt such an approach.
1101.3 – Defined Terms
Recommendations – We recommend the following changes be made for clarification:
Accessible Pedestrian Signals should be revised to indicate that a pedestrian signal also provides information about the Don't Walk phase.
Roundabout should use the term "generally circular" rather than "circular."
In addition, the term "blended transition" is a relatively new term for the industry. There is confusion regarding this term, especially as it compares to diagonal curb cuts. Clarification is needed beyond what is stated in the text under the technical provisions.
1102 SCOPING REQUIREMENTS
Section 1102.1 General
Comments - The general discussion referenced in the document states that the provision of sidewalks, street crossings, etc. would not be required where none are intended. Our Routine Maintenance is preventative work to maintain the existing system in kind. Our existing area-wide paving contracts are an important factor in the overlay preservation of our highways.
Impact – If these projects are subject to ADAAG improvements, the number of projects constructed would be dramatically reduced thus adding to the further degradation of our highway system.
Recommendations - A clear definition of what constitutes upgrades to our infrastructure is needed. A description of types of work that will trigger sidewalk widening, replacement ramps, accessible pedestrian signals, etc. is desirable. We feel routine maintenance work including milling and repaving should not constitute an upgrade that would trigger the new requirements. We suggest the definition be defined as construction of new roadways, capacity expansion off existing roadways, reconstruction of existing roadways in which the pavement is being replaced or repaving of roadways such that the pavement left is being significantly extended.
We also wish to point out that under the ADA itself (Title II 28 CFR Sec.35.150 (b)(1), a
program will be viewed in its entirety for purpose of determining compliance with the program accessibility standard. A public entity is not required to make each of its existing facilities accessible if alternative accessible locations are available.
Section 1102.2.2 – Alterations
Comments - Alterations in which compliance may be technically infeasible are exempt, though the later action must comply to the maximum extent feasible. Essentially, with enough resources, anything may be feasible, but that is not always reasonable or practical, especially when dealing with taxpayers’ dollars. This is a muddy area that needs clarification and some explicit parameters.
The definition of "alteration" needs to be more explicit. This is particularly so when it pertains to scope of work, whether it be repaving, maintenance, reconstruction, rehabilitation, etc.
The Maryland State Highway Administration, and many of its counterparts throughout the industry, would not consider maintenance as an "alteration." Rather, most maintenance work is done with the sole purpose of rehabilitating the roadway surface, from curb to curb. What is the definition of "planned alteration," and what are the implications for strict maintenance projects?
Impact - This would essentially render our maintenance and repaving projects impossible if these projects had to incorporate all elements triggered by the "alteration" requirement.
Recommendations - Projects that were strictly maintenance projects, should be held to a narrower standard of what would be required, (i.e. curb cuts within the roadway), and subject to a field standard of feasibility, if not out right exempted.
Comments - The exception provision in the ADAAG refers to "what is technically infeasible" and compliance "to the maximum extent feasible" where compliance is technically infeasible. In the preamble portion of the published document, concepts such as "prorate" and "more" or "less" extensive project are also discussed. While these are critical concepts, they are all too vague and may not appear in the actual ADAAG provisions. Essentially, the portion of the scoping provisions as they pertain to exceptions, and processes to receive these exceptions, needs clarification. We note in the discussion that the Board is attempting to work on the issue of how to apply the guidelines in alteration projects. How will the reasonable attempts at this be included in the stand along portion of the ADAAG?
Impact - Almost anything is technically feasible if enough money is applied to a situation. From an operations point of view, it is important to have more delineation as to who determines what is "technically infeasible," "practicable," etc. Is funding ever a good reason?
Recommendations - A process needs to be in place to determine on a quick basis what precisely these terms mean within the context of a given project. One way to do this is to have some sort of arbiter available. We strongly suggest a method such as the design exception process be incorporated into the ADAAG. In this process, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) reviews documentation of problems and solutions, as well as determines whether agencies have made good faith efforts to address the intent of the issue. Another alternate is to apply a "reasonable man" standard to efforts to comply with the letter of the ADAAG provisions in a given environment. Finally, we need to determine what specific factors would determine unfeasibility (i.e. cost, right of way, impacts to traffic, lane closings, utility relocations, reduction of lane widths to accommodate sidewalk width, etc). This determination should also take into account impacts on economic viability.
Section 1102.3 – Alternate Circulation Path
Comments – This could be a major issue when doing streetscape or neighborhood conservation projects, which are community-driven, revitalization projects in older neighborhoods developed through task force involvement. Alternate Circulation Path is problematic and may have the chilling effect in the delivery of projects. If this is to mean that an adjacent, parallel path is to be provided whenever work is being done along a sidewalk, then vehicular traffic could conceivably come to a halt or be blocked so much that it is essentially the same thing. An alternative accessible route would still be non-discriminatory, as it would apply to all pedestrians equally. This is consistent with the intent of the ADA as a civil rights law. If the sidewalk is closed to the general public the closing does not discriminate against individuals with disabilities.
A critical question is how long is temporary? Providing an Alternate Circulation Path could be more disruptive, time consuming and expensive than the temporary condition blocking the route, if it is feasible at all. Most system preservation projects within urban areas do not provide sufficient room to accommodate alternate paths on the same side of the roadway during construction. Accommodating an alternate path may require re-direction along a parallel roadway on the opposite side of the street.
Most barricades would not meet the guidelines, because the legs of the barriers would be considered a tripping hazard. This means using concrete barriers or plywood flooring. If the contractor is allowed to have pedestrians use sidewalks on the other side of the street or within the community on a temporary basis and sign them as detour routes, then the contractor could be devoting time to completing the permanent walkways as soon as possible.
To the extent that an alternate circulation path traverses a structure (bridge) that offers no latitude on additional width, it is not feasible to comply with the provisions of this section without closing the bridge totally.
Finally, we believe property owners would not be receptive to having temporary walkways on their property largely due to issues of liability. Who is responsible, if someone gets hurt while traversing this walkway? This could happen by no fault of the contractor, state agency, or property owner.
Impacts - Cost could be a factor, but available space will probably be the major concern. Providing space to accommodate a path could impact construction sequence, maintenance of traffic, etc. If additional space were not available within existing state right of way, costly temporary easements on private property would be required. If obtainable, this could require destruction of permanent fixtures, as well as landscaping. The cost in terms of delays, pollution and safety are tremendous.
This becomes a major issue in central business districts, where buildings and parking abut sidewalks. Barricading a defined pedestrian alternate circulation path may preclude access to businesses, including vehicular access, resulting in significant economic loses.
The time of the project will be increased greatly if the contractor must allot time to construct such elaborate temporary walkways. The public is already anxious to get construction done; is there a happy medium that could be used to meet everyone’s needs to provide access and get the job done?
The cost of construction would also greatly increase due to, among other things, home office overhead for the contractor, materials, labor, equipment, increased inspection costs, and administrative cost for the government agency staff. The cost of usage loss due to increased project duration must also be included.
Recommendations - During certain construction activities, there are times where continuous same side pedestrian access will not be available due to conflicts with construction activities. In older areas, it may be feasible to provide a minimal same side alternate circulation path using planking, but this may require some modification of the barricades. An alternative accessible route should be allowable on the opposite side of the street as an adequate substitute during construction, provided adequate notice is given that a sidewalk will be closed and the sidewalk is blocked in a fashion that clearly routes the pedestrian to the alternate route. The alternate path should be ADAAG compliant first, if possible.
We recognize and agree with the need to provide equal access to vehicles and pedestrians. When a road is closed to vehicles, we set up detours. We do not construct temporary roadways parallel to the existing lane that is closed. When these detours are created in a Maintenance of Traffic plan, what is reasonable is to expect the traveling public to do, taken into account. The creation of detours for pedestrians as needed and the incorporation of them into the plans as a Maintenance of Pedestrian Traffic plan should be allowed. A parallel path on the opposite side of the street through a construction area would provide an accessible path of travel. This, combined with a public outreach program prior to construction, would satisfy the accessible and equal access issue.
Section 1102.5 – Protruding Objects
Comment - While the requirement has not changed, the lack of provisions for exceptions within the strict limits of no less than 48-inch width within the pedestrian accessible route becomes a problem. Furthermore, the issue of responsibility for privately owned features that are placed along the sidewalk that infringe upon the sidewalk clear width needs to be addressed. This includes, though is not limited to, utility poles, newspaper boxes, and U.S. mailboxes. Often, these are placed after construction by third parties at locations not approved by the transportation agency.
Impact - This will cause significant difficulty with the location of necessary objects, signal equipment in particular.
Recommendations - Provisions for pinch points or reduction in sidewalk width should be allowable where, due to existing features, the minimum clear width is not feasible.
Coordination among AASHTO, MUTCD and ADAAG standards is necessary in those areas where sufficient right-of-way cannot be obtained to maintain all proposed standards.
Section 1102.6 – Curb Ramps and Blended Transitions
Comment - There is no clear definition, detail or explanation of the term "Blended Transition." We suggest clearly marked diagrams be shown and that blended transition be added under general definitions.
Section 1102.7.2 –Informational Signs and Warning Signs
Comment - The discussion addresses warning signs pertaining to sidewalk closures or that provide direction to alternate pedestrian routes. This contradicts the requirement for the Alternate Circulation Path. Does this imply alternate pedestrian routes may be acceptable under certain circumstances, as they are under existing guidelines, provided they give appropriate warning and direction via informational and warning signs? We believe that with proper signage this would be acceptable.
Recommendations - We suggest that the use of these pedestrian signs may become a critical element in providing Alternate Circulation Paths on the opposite side of a street while a sidewalk must be closed. Informational signs and warning signs need to be cross-referenced and investigated further, as they may require new high-tech type signage we do not currently use, at least on a routine basis.
Section 1102.13 Bus Stops
Comment - No direction is provided on how to deal with bus stops within a construction zone.
Impact - Temporarily locating a bus stop has serious implications, sometimes, it may be better to shut down the bus stop.
Recommendations - Clear direction is requested on how to address the temporary closure or moving bus stops during construction.
Section 1102.14 – On-Street Parking
Comment – Current practice is to provide an accessible on-street parking space when we know there is a person with this specific need. Must this one accessible parking space be reserved for that person in addition to providing an accessible parking space for the broader population who may required such a space. The current ADAAG does not address on-street parking, though it provides requirements for parking lots, in a 1:25 ratio for accessible parking spaces.
Impact - If the new requirements are applied, as we read it, on-street accessible parking would far exceed the ratio requirements under the current ADAAG guidelines (section 4.1.2) and the proposed guidelines as well. The resulting over allotment of accessible spots may have a significant impact on business owners who rely on frequent turn over of spaces for business.
Recommendations – We recommend wording for accessible parking spaces similar to existing ADAAG, which provides a maximum of 1 accessible space per 25 parking spaces. If the standard is based on a "block," then "block" should be defined in terms of number of feet.
Section 1103 – Pedestrian Access Routes
Comment – The general discussion of definition of pedestrian access route is convoluted.
Section 1103.3 – Clear Width
Comment - The 48" minimum requirement exceeds the current ADAAG requirements of 36 inches. What are reasonable factors to determine infeasibility where we cannot accommodate 48 inches of clear width? It is difficult for transportation agencies to control the placement of fixtures (such as utility poles), which are owned, located and maintained by private entities. How can we ensure they do not encroach upon the 48-inch clear width, particularly when they are placed after construction or alteration?
Impact - This change could potentially have a very serious impact on project delivery, particularly in older areas where limited curb-to-building face width is often fixed. Within a streetscape or neighborhood conservation project, where right of way is very limited and utilities, roadway signage, landscaping, and traffic control devices are competing elements, providing a minimum 48" pedestrian access route, without any exception, will pose potentially insurmountable obstacles. Even where additional right of way is available, it is still not practicable, since Maryland’s policy, and we suspect that of other states is not to purchase property for sidewalks, but instead obtain it by donation easement of right of entries. This becomes an issue where the "reasonable man" standard should be appropriately applied. Who pays the very costly relocation of above/below ground utilities, for instance? Often third parties, notably utility companies, must bear the cost, but how can they be compelled to do so as a result of this mandate. It should be noted, at least in Maryland, to relocate a simple utility pole will cost between $5,000 and $40,000 per pole, depending on what is on the pole.
Recommendation – We propose allowing for reduction to 32" (as consistent with existing ADAAG section 403.5.1) at necessary pinch points where the 48 inch standard is reasonably unobtainable. In some instances, where right of way is simply not available, utility poles or similar fixtures that cannot be moved may need to be located within the sidewalk. Tactile surface distinction may need to provided around or connecting them so that a continuous distinctive surface is provided to alert pedestrians using canes of the obstacle.
Furthermore, DOTs needs to retain the flexibility to reduce bicycle lanes and through lanes to accommodate an acceptable clear width for pedestrian access routes. While narrowing the width of the travel lane is often an option, it needs to be weighed against the impacts to the traveling public and its safety, as well as the needs of other road users such as bicyclists and dedicated bicycle lanes.
Section 1103.4 – Cross Slopes
Comment - Given the various topographical features throughout different regions of the state, the 1:48 maximum may not be feasible in all cases. An example would be where the pedestrian access route crosses an existing driveway with a steep grade. In order to apply the 1:48 cross slope in many cases would require reconstruction of existing driveways to the extent that impacts to private property would far exceed the benefit.
Recommendations - Exceptions will be needed for driveway crossings, after reasonable efforts have been made.
Section 1103.5 – Grade
Comment – The new guidelines state that the grade of the pedestrian access route within a sidewalk is permitted to be as steep as the grade of the adjoining roadway. We concur with this recommendation.
Recommendations - Ramps need to be exempted from this guideline, since a ramp parallel to a downhill section of roadway may exceed the roadway grade.
Section 1103.6 – Surfaces
Comment - It is particularly difficult to comment on this section when it is cross-referenced to another document under review.
Impact - If openings greater than ½ inch are prohibited, this will effectively reject the use of stamped asphalt or other aesthetic treatments highly desired or required by communities in historic or neighborhood conservation areas.
Recommendations – Reasonable exceptions need to be applied in historic districts and designated neighborhoods, where cobblestone and brick treatment is desired by the local community and State Historic Preservation Officer.
Section 1103.8 – Changes in Level
Comment – As stated in ADAAG Section 303, the maximum change in level may not exceed ¼ inch or ½ inch, which would be treated as a ramp or curb ramp. While this could be achieved during construction, with freezing/thawing heaving as well as tree root displacement, the result could be a significant maintenance challenge over the long term. What are the impacts/responsibilities over the long term? Who will monitor? The State Highway Administration does not maintain sidewalks in Maryland; local jurisdictions do. These sidewalks are often located on private property. Who has the responsibility under these circumstances for addressing changes in level of over ¼ inch?
Recommendations – SHA recommends that appropriate construction tolerances must be taken into account and issues related to long term maintenance and inspection process must be determined prior to putting this requirement in place.
Section 1104 – CURB RAMPS AND BLENDED TRANSITIONS
Section 1104.2 Types
Comment – The lack of discussion on diagonal curb cuts and poor wording on the definition of blended transitions has resulted in confusion. Are diagonal curb cuts are no longer acceptable; or have they been assumed under the definition of blended transition? From a field standpoint, when minimal width sidewalks extend to the curb, this is often the best alternative treatment. What is the Access Board preference: choose a different curb ramp or don’t provide the landing or other feature?
Section 1184.108.40.206 – Landing
Comment - Even after considering alternate types of ramp configurations that would allow the required landing area at the top of the ramp, there may still be situations in which this is not feasible, given available right of way.
Recommendations - A determination will need to be made as to what constitutes "reasonable" where we cannot meet this requirement. We also suggest that an exception be included for additional flexibility in confined areas.
Section 1220.127.116.11 – Diverging Sidewalks
Comment - We concur with this in principle as a safety issue. However, clarification is required regarding the definition of a barrier and the extent of the drop off which would trigger the use of a barrier.
Section 1104.2.3 – Blended Transitions
Comment - The assumption is made that the definition of a blended transition is equivalent to the definition of a diagonal curb ramp, which is specified in the existing ADAAG. In the discussion portion of the document, the use of tabling the roadway is given as an alternate method to depressing the sidewalk. We do not, however, believe this is the safest treatment, as the pedestrian is not protected from errant vehicles.
Recommendations - Some treatment that protects the pedestrian at the base of the ramp that is wide enough for wheel chairs, such as bollards, may be desirable. Tabling is not a feasible option for maintenance purposes, particularly in snow and ice conditions. Diagrams would be beneficial.
Section 1104.3.1 – Width
Comment - Our comments here are the same as comments on Section 118.104.22.168, largely because of the issue of available right of way.
Section 1104.3.3 – Surfaces
Comments - In existing communities where utility manhole covers were placed in the sidewalk, compliance with the new guidelines could require extensive and very costly utility relocations. Certainly we would not place a utility fixture in an accessible pathway surface during new construction.
Recommendations – We suggest that as an alternative, where utility placement requires clear surface interruptions, such as manhole covers, and to relocate would not be feasible, these interruptions shall be flush with the surface.
Section 1104.3.4 – Grade Breaks
Comment - What is the difference between grade breaks and changes in level?
Section 1104.3.7 – Clear Space
Comment - In the current ADAAG, this is inclusive of the gutter pan. This is unclear in the new guidelines. Previously, this was only allowed in the diagonal curb ramp (which we assume is "blended transition" in the new language). However, by placing it under "common elements" in the new guidelines, the appearance is that this will be allowable in all curb ramp configurations.
Additionally, where a 4-foot square landing in the street is provided, it would rarely be out of the travel lane unless a parking lane is present. Is it the intention, to have this landing outside of the travel lane? If so, then why set the pedestrian signal timing for a crossing distance from top of ramp to top of ramp, as specified in section 1105.3?
Recommendation - This should be clarified in the new ADAAG to similarly include the gutter pan in the allowable dimensions and types of ramps. The contradiction signal timing also needs to be resolved.
Section 1105 – PEDESTRIAN CROSSINGS
Section 1105.2 – Crosswalks
Section 1105.2.1 – Width
Comment - There is concern about the need for 96-inch crosswalks, which exceeds the 72-inch MUTCD minimum. While we believe the Access Board’s reasoning about needing to cross the street rapidly in an area with very heavy pedestrian use may have some validity in highly urbanized areas, it is not seen as a problem in the overwhelming number of cases.
Impact - By adding the 2 feet of additional width to the crosswalks, we would have to move back stop bars, thereby affecting sight distance which could ultimately affect intersection safety.
Recommendation - Traffic engineers should have the latitude to exercise sound engineering judgment and practice and flexibility based on field conditions to determine when to use 96" or greater.
Section 1105.2.2 – Cross Slope
Comment - We understand the reasoning for the 1:48 maximum cross slope of the crosswalk, which is to provide safe passage for a person using a wheelchair. However, under reconstruction or rehabilitation of existing roadways this may not be feasible, depending of existing lay of the land. While the Access Board discussion acknowledges that approach roadways may come to an intersection at 8 or 9 percent grade, they do not acknowledge the problems that result in their proposed solutions. Furthermore, the proposed solution of tabling presents many problems for drivers or passengers with musculoskeletal disabilities because of the jarring effect of the tables
as vehicles traverse them. While we recognize that tabling is used as a means of traffic calming in some jurisdictions, they are always confined to small, residential areas with slow speeds, not higher speed, and higher volume state roads.
Impacts - On reconstruction projects, a 1:48 maximum cross slope may not be attainable without major improvements to the existing intersection due to the need to flatten out approaching roadways which may be quite steep in certain terrain. In addition, if the maximum cross slope is less than the normal pavement cross slope of 2%, it could affect superelevation and create drainage issues, such as ponding and icing. This may ultimately require the installation of major drainage systems if we are required to upgrade existing cross slopes to meet this requirement.
The issue of tabling the crosswalk as a solution presents significant operations, safety and maintenance problems. Among these are the ‘bottoming out’ of motor vehicles.
From a maintenance perspective, there is concern that the tabled areas at intersections would create an obstacle during snow removal operations. The result would be damage to the tabling and crosswalk as plow blades would chip away at the surface. These tabled areas would also create speed bumps that could cause vehicle damage, notably, for mass transit vehicles, emergency vehicles, large trucks, cars with low undercarriages and bicycles. From a traffic safety perspective, tables are an unexpected distraction to drivers, and slow the normal flow of traffic.
Recommendation - We suggest the tabling and crosswalk cross slope issue be better left to engineering recommendations and adjustments at the field level.
Section 1105.3 – Pedestrian Signal Phase Timing
Comments – It is not clear what formed the basis for the 3.0 feet per second, however, it is contrary to the flexibility given in the MUTCD to adjust the calculation according to field conditions, population use, etc. Also, we are concerned that timing is based on curb to curb plus the length of the curb ramp, as opposed to the MUTCD’s current curb to the center of the furthest lane.
Impact - Decreasing the standard walking rate to 3.0 f/s across the board will increase the pedestrian signal timing phase, thus increasing time for pedestrians to cross the street (especially including the ramp crossings). This will result in longer cycle lengths, and therefore less green time on mainline and potentially a lower level-of-service (LOS) and degradation of air quality. (This is an alphabetic rating system used to determine the degree to which an intersection can handle, or fail to handle, vehicular traffic through an intersection or area.) The worse the level of service, the more delays and idling time, resulting therefore in an increase in pollution. In addition, this longer cycle time for crossing when no pedestrians are crossing tends to encourage red light running and, consequently, accidents.
Recommendations - This is not to say that we would not use 3.0 f/s to calculate the pedestrian signal phase timing, but it should be justified (i.e., a signalized intersection with pedestrian crossing adjacent to a senior citizen complex, disabled persons complex, etc.) We believe this should be left up to field observation and engineering judgment, recognizing that people with disabilities, the elderly and other pedestrians are all considered as part of the analysis. If we are correct in our understanding regarding the inclusion of shoulders and parking lanes for the timing calculation, we believe these should be explicitly dropped from the equation as they are not travel lanes.
Section 1105.4.1 – Length
Comments - We wish to echo comments made in the above subsection. We agree that a 72" pedestrian refuge is desirable, however, this is not always attainable where right of way and/or existing features limit available width.
Impacts - In many cases, this may require additional right of way and roadway widening, if lanes cannot be reduced enough to provide the needed additional width for the median. In order to provide the minimum 6-foot median, it may be necessary to reduce/or balance other requirements under this proposed ADAAG, such as sidewalk widths. This requirement may also conflict with bicycle compatibility requirements and local set-back ordinances.
Recommendations - We agree this is preferable in the best of circumstances, but we believe designers should be allowed flexibility in adapting to field conditions, providing a reasonable width is achieved to allow wheelchairs to be protected by the median.
Section 1105.4.2 – Detectable Warnings
Comment – The cut-through medians require detectable warnings per section 1108, which states 6" – 8" setback from the curb line plus 24" dome panel, plus 24" separation, plus 24" dome panel for other direction, plus 6" – 8" setback. This would require a minimum 7-foot median width, which is contradictory to section 1105.4.1 minimum requirement of 6 feet.
Recommendation – This contradiction needs to be reconciled, with recognition that often it is difficult to put in a 6-foot median, let alone a 7-foot median.
Section 1105.5 – Pedestrian Overpasses and Underpasses
Comment - The construction, cost, maintenance and security of a required elevator or escalator would in reality eliminate any support of underpasses or overpasses by SHA.
Section 1105.6 – Roundabouts
Comments – Under the Fundamental Alteration and Undue Burden provision of the ADA (28 C.F.R. Sec. 35.150(a)(3), "a public entity is not required to take any action that will result in a fundamental alteration of a program, service or activity or create undue administrative or financial burdens." We believe strongly that installing pedestrian activated signals would result in a fundamental alteration of the purpose of the roundabout.
In addition, roundabouts are one of the best-proven strategies that we as a state transportation agency can promote to save lives (hundreds over the long term) and injuries, including persons with disabilities in vehicles, as well as assisting with our other vital few mandates. Requiring pedestrian signals at all roundabout legs with sidewalks (as suggested in the draft guidance) could effectively eliminate their use in urban areas (our most congested areas) in this country, as well as make the roundabout far less effective on reducing accidents.
We need to accept that we cannot build our way out of congestion, but we can manage it better. For example, had we (SHA) not constructed the roundabout in Towson, we would have added additional lanes to the intersection to achieve the same results in terms of reduced vehicular delay. Thus, pedestrians would have had to cross 6-7 lanes in order to reach their destination at some of the legs. Presently at the Towson roundabout there is no crossing wider than 2 lanes before reaching refuge islands.
Impacts - Roundabouts are by definition, unsignalized intersections. The proposed ADAAG requirement that pedestrian activated signals be placed at all roundabouts with crosswalks and/or high pedestrian usage would imply that all unsignalized intersections in urban areas be fitted with pedestrian activated signals. This is neither practical nor feasible.
We agree that something needs to be done to help pedestrians, especially the blind, to cross roundabouts. However, introducing pedestrian activated signals will eliminate the benefit of the roundabout. The Towson roundabout, for instance, would cease to function except for pedestrians. As such, the Access Board, in effect, presents a black and white situation with no latitude. While a standard fixed-time signal would present significant difficulties, a pedestrian activated signal is even more problematic in highly urban areas because it allows almost no gaps for vehicular traffic. Thus, to require pedestrian activated signals at roundabouts would in all likelihood remove roundabouts as an alternative, particularly on streetscape type projects.
In addition, requiring pedestrian activated signals at roundabouts presents many Human Factors issues. Specifically, vehicle operators are not expecting stop/go signals at roundabouts. The pedestrian would certainly get a false sense of security and their usage would almost certainly lead to vehicle operator mistrust. For example, the pedestrian activates a signal and before indications come up allowing for that pedestrian to cross, an acceptable gap presents itself and the pedestrian crosses. Thus, when the pedestrian walk indication appears and there is no pedestrian present, the driver may not be as willing to stop the next time around or may speed up ‘to beat the signal.’
Recommendations - Vehicles that do not yield to pedestrians are an enforcement issue, not an opportunity to make the roundabouts worthless with signals. One alternative to improve safety would be to provide good, clear sight lines to curb ramps (from 100 to 200 feet down the street) and aggressively enforce the laws, along with signing that attenuates the requirement for vehicles to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk. Crossings themselves could be separated outside of and some distance from the roundabout. Additionally, signalized crosswalks at downstream existing signals could provide an appropriate alternative.
The Board’s recommendation and similar ones related to turn lanes should be, as a minimum, delayed under a research project can be conducted to alternatives and impacts. Simply put, the Access Board needs additional guidance on this issue.
From another perspective, there is clear need for pedestrian education. At the Towson roundabout, a member of the National Federation of the Blind was given a thorough explanation of the how the roundabout was intended to operate, critical features, and other relevant information and then asked to navigate from point A to point B, and then around all five legs. This was done in a safe and efficient manner. This blind pedestrian noted that once he had received some background specific to the site and general information, he would be able to navigate based on skills he applies to his travels elsewhere, as long as there was a moderate degree of consistency. (This walk-through was video taped and we would be happy to share it with the Access Board.)
Section 1105.6.1 – Separation
Comments – We are unclear as to the purpose of this railing or other separation. If the purpose is to funnel the pedestrian to a curb cut, then the change in grade at the curb cut should be sufficient and consistent with other sidewalks. If the purpose is to protect the pedestrian from an errant vehicle, then that is the purpose of the curb.
Separation from moving traffic may generally be considered as a positive from a pedestrian perspective. However, barriers are considered potential hazards to the errant motorists and may cause severe injury.
Recommendations –Permit the placement of barriers back from the circulating roadway so as not to become a hazard. Clarification of the type of barrier should be given, with consideration about location and type so as to minimize severity of accidents. Exactly what constitutes a barrier and whether it will pose an even greater hazard to motorists and pedestrians alike are important issues.
Section 1105.6.2 – Signals
Comments - This proposal in particular should require supportive data from the Access Board, especially in light of the significant safety improvements of roundabouts. Allowing pedestrians to stop the intended free flow of traffic would negate many of the reasons for installing roundabouts. In many cases, it would not be practical to install roundabouts, which result in a increase in traffic safety, for both pedestrian and vehicular.
Currently pedestrian activated traffic signals are used at signalized intersections to alert pedestrians which traffic has the green and to prevent pedestrians from entering into the line of traffic that has a green light. The entire premise of a roundabout is based on traffic yields and not on traffic signals. Existing law requires traffic to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk and this should suffice for roundabouts as well. Having too many signals too close together could cause confusion in hearing the audible tones from other signals.
Impacts - Contrary to the benefits noted in 1105.6, the inclusion of pedestrian activated signals could contribute to an increase in traffic accidents, especially for vehicles in the roundabout. A significant factor in constructing roundabouts is to reduce traffic accidents as well as accident severity. The introduction of traffic signals could result in an increase in rear-end collisions. Pedestrian signals at a roundabout would violate driver expectancy, along with providing a false sense of security for the pedestrian, possibly resulting in an increase in pedestrian involved accidents. Other concerns are reduced driver visibility and unexpected vehicle queues.
Recommendations - Sight distance improvements and pedestrian law enforcement strategies are a viable alternative to installing pedestrian actuated signals. Consideration could be given to altering this section to require such a signal only when no alternative pedestrian route can be provided within 600' +/- of the roundabout crosswalk. In addition, closing of the crosswalk at roundabouts should be an acceptable alternative.
However, at a minimum, we feel strongly that this proposal along with that of section 1105.7 needs to be delayed until extensive research can be conducted to determine the total safety impacts and the results of the upcoming FHWA symposium.
Section 1105.7 – Turn Lanes at Intersections
Comments - Many of the comments made under 1105.6 Roundabouts, apply to the proposals under this section, particularly those of requesting supporting data, alternative access and driver expectancy.
Impact – Similarly, the same impacts contained in comments about roundabouts, generally and signals specifically, are incorporated here by reference. In addition, placing pedestrian activated signals at some small, channelized islands could create a dangerous situation.
We are particularly concerned about the Human Factors impacts, as vehicle operators would not expect pedestrian activated signals at the free right-turn lane. Motorists also may not see the pedestrians as they approach their turn because motorists are looking to the left. Ultimately, we believe this will make the intersections less safe for pedestrians.
Finally, it would be very expensive to retrofit all channelized turn lanes with pedestrian activated signals.
Recommendations – Crosswalks at free right turn lanes should be designed for the shortest possible distance and presence of the pedestrian crossings be accentuated through the use of conspicuous signs and markings, while the requirements for signals be dropped.
Section 1106 – ACCESSIBLE PEDESTRIAN SIGNAL SYSTEMS
Section 1106.1 – General
Comments – We recognize that the use of Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APSs) is desirable in many locations when there is an indication of pedestrians who would benefit from APS. However, we do not believe they are warranted in all cases, across the board.
Impact – This is a significant unfunded mandate. Our experience shows that to retrofit an intersection in an older area – a typical situation – with eight APSs to cover the entire intersection costs approximately $20,000 per intersection.
Recommendations - These sections should not take effect until criteria and design standards are in place. Much work is currently being undertaken and will be available in 2 to 3 years. In addition, the opposing positions taken by the NFB and ACB should be reviewed, accompanied by supporting data. All parties that would be most directly affected by this requirement should be in total agreement with this recommendation. After these guidelines are adopted, it will be the States’ responsibility to implement and maintain, along with assuming responsibility for results. We need to be assured that the Access Board and ACB positions are correct under all circumstances. Once the requirements do take effect, a prioritization should be used based on a specific set of criteria, much in the same way a traffic engineering study is used for traffic signals
in general. Otherwise, every overlay project, for example, would require the modification of the existing signal system. Finally, a phase-in time for the installation should be included.
Section 1106.4.3 – Crosswalk Configuration
Comment: Does the requirement to provide tactile graphic indications of crosswalk configurations include complex intersections, such as roundabouts?
Recommendation – Consideration needs to be given to the complexity of the intersection. It might be preferable to give more general tactile descriptions, i.e., "this is a four lane roundabout, etc." than attempt to give a complex graphic display in a small panel space.
Section 1108 – DETECTABLE WARNING SURFACE
Section 1108.1 – General
Comment: Experience has shown that some truncated domes may be a hazard to the pedestrian with high-heel shoes. Does this dome spacing account for this problem?
Section 1109 – ON-STREET PARKING
Section 1109.2 – Parallel Parking Spaces
Comment – When an accessible space must be located at the end of the block face, there are significant concerns regarding the safety of the vehicle occupants as they maneuver to the pedestrian access route. They are exposed to right turning vehicles as they access the curb ramp. Since parking at the end of a block face is prohibited between 20-30 feet of the intersection under current national design standards, there are potential conflicts. For example, this would be in direct conflict with the location of bump-outs that are typically placed at the end of the block on streetscape projects. Ironically, this would produce a trade-off of benefits to the pedestrian.
Recommendation - Clear diagrams are needed to provide a better understanding of what is required. The issue of accessible spaces at the end of a block needs to be addressed.
Section 1109.5 – Obstructions
Comment - Utility poles, fire hydrants, traffic signal poles are commonly placed between on street parking and the sidewalk or in the sidewalk. In addition, other regulatory signs may be allowed.
Recommendations - Under the new guidelines, "no parking" or "accessible parking" signs may be allowed, but utility poles, etc. are prohibited. If one is deemed so critical as to violate the clear zone, the others should be similarly excepted.
Section 1111 – ALTERNATE CIRCULATION PATH
Section 1111.3 – Location
Comment - We agree that if a sidewalk is open for pedestrians without disabilities, it should be so for pedestrians with disabilities, and the converse. If a sidewalk is closed, all pedestrians should be directed safely to a reasonable alternate path of travel. However, as we understand this new provision, an accessible alternate route on the opposite side of the street, which is ADA compliant is no longer acceptable during construction.
Impact - In most situations this simply will not be possible. In older urban and/or historic areas, for example, there often is little if any additional room between existing sidewalks and buildings. Compliance with the provision would require the closure of a lane of traffic and may actually occur on roadways with one lane of traffic in each direction, essentially shutting down the entire facility. In other cases, it would require removing utility poles and trees to accommodate a temporary situation. From another perspective, this provision encourages conflicts between pedestrians and cross access of construction vehicles to the work area.
Recommendation - We recommend "same side of the street" be eliminated and that the Access Board substitute a provision in which reasonable, accessible and safe alternatives, either as alternate routes or paths on the opposing side of the street, be acceptable as long as they meet the minimum 36 inch requirement. We recommend that where street crossing is necessary, warning signs be used consistent with earlier provisions of this proposal.
Section 1111.4 – Protection
Comment - If the Access Board holds firm on this same-side provision, which we strongly oppose, this mean an alternate path must be 36 inches clear width plus the room to accommodate the footprint of a solid barrier.
Impact - This will almost always require taking out at least one travel lane.
Recommendation - We reiterate our suggested alternate in the section above.
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