CHAPTER 9:  LEASED POSTAL FACILITIES

9.0  Introduction

 

The Architectural Barriers Act requires facilities leased by the Federal government to be accessible to individuals with disabilities.[229]  The General Services Administration, which is responsible for most of the leasing activity for the Federal government, requires leased facilities to comply with UFAS and ADAAG, and the final revised guidelines will have minimal impacts on its leasing activities.

 

The United States Postal Service (USPS), which leases about 27,000 postal facilities, issued standards for its leased facilities in 1986.[230]  The USPS surveyed 22 of its leased facilities in 2003 to assess the customer areas and employee areas compliance with the USPS’ current standards and the final revised guidelines.  The facilities are located in seven States, and range in size from 300 square feet to 20,000 square feet.  The facilities have been occupied from 3 years to 50 years.  The USPS considers the facilities representative of its current inventory of leased facilities.  If an element did not comply with the USPS’ current standards or the final revised guidelines, estimates were prepared for altering the element to bring it into compliance and the costs were assigned to either the USPS’ current standards or the final revised guidelines.[231]  The costs for altering the facilities to comply with the final revised guidelines ranged from $950 for a 17,415 square feet facility that has been occupied for 17 years, to $45,058 for a 2,086 square feet facility that has been occupied for 48 years.[232] 

 

After the USPS adopts the final revised guidelines as standards, the USPS will need to alter its leased facilities to comply with the final revised guidelines when a new lease is entered into for a facility, including a previously occupied facility.[233]  The USPS used the costs for altering the 22 surveyed facilities to comply with the final revised guidelines as the basis for estimating the average cost for altering the 3,322 postal facilities whose lease terms, including options, expire during 2003 or 2004.  The average cost was weighted to take into account the size of the facilities and the number of years the facilities have been occupied.  The USPS estimated the average cost for altering the 3,332 facilities to comply with the final revised guidelines when new leases are entered into would be $9,234 per facility.  The total annual costs for altering the facilities to comply with the final revised guidelines would be $15.3 million based on an average of 1,661 new leases entered into each year.

 

The final revised guidelines will also have impacts on postal facilities that are newly

constructed or altered by the USPS.  In fiscal years 2000 to 2003, the USPS constructed or expanded an average of about 300 facilities per year, including about 200 leased facilities and 100 owned facilities.  In fiscal year 2003, the USPS also conducted about 250 major alteration projects at existing facilities.[234]  The impacts on new construction and alteration projects will be minimal compared to the impacts on leased facilities.

 

The results of the USPS’ survey are discussed in this chapter.

9.1  Customer Service Counters

 

The final revised guidelines require a portion of customer service counters in leased facilities to be accessible.[235]  Where a parallel approach is provided, the accessible portion of the counter must be at least 36 inches long and no higher than 36 inches.[236]  In existing facilities, if making a portion of the counter accessible would result in a reduction in the number of existing counters or existing mailboxes, an exception permits the accessible portion of the counter to be at least 24 inches long where a parallel approach is provided and the clear floor space is centered on the accessible portion of the counter.[237]  Where a forward approach is provided, the accessible portion of the counter must be at least 30 inches long and no higher than 36 inches, and knee and toe clearance must be provided under the counter.[238] 

 

The USPS’ current standards do not specifically address customer service counters in leased facilities that are not newly constructed or altered.[239]  The USPS has designed modular customer service counters that comply with the final revised guidelines, and currently installs the accessible counters in newly constructed or altered postal facilities.

 

Nineteen of the surveyed facilities do not currently have an accessible customer service counter.  The estimates for removing an existing customer service counter and installing an accessible counter ranged from $1,620 to $11,350.  For 11 facilities, the estimates were between $4,700 and $4,900.  The highest estimate ($11,350) included a new roll-down gate over the customer service counter.  The facilities assigned the costs for the accessible customer service counters to the final revised guidelines.

9.2  Van Accessible Parking Spaces

 

The final revised guidelines require one in every six accessible parking spaces to be van

accessible.[240]  The USPS’ current standards do not contain any provisions for van accessible parking spaces in leased facilities.[241]

 

Eight of the surveyed facilities do not provide parking spaces for customers.  These facilities have parking available on the street which will not be affected by the final revised guidelines.  Another facility, a modular unit that is a carrier annex to a main post office, does not have its own parking lot.

 

A van accessible parking space, including the access aisle, is 3 feet wider than an accessible parking space.[242]  Providing a van accessible parking space in an existing parking lot usually requires restriping some of the parking spaces.  The number of parking spaces that need to be restriped will depend on the layout of the parking lot.  Six of the surveyed facilities that provide parking spaces for customers estimated the costs for restriping the parking spaces to provide a van accessible parking space.[243]  The estimates for restriping the parking spaces ranged from $413 to $1,301.[244]  Three facilities assigned the costs for restriping the parking spaces to the final revised guidelines.  One facility assigned the costs for restriping the parking spaces to the USPS’ current standards because the existing pavement markings were faded.  Two facilities will have to repave the existing accessible parking space to make it level and assigned all or most of the costs for repaving and restriping the parking space to the USPS’ current standards.[245]  

 

Accessible parking spaces are identified by signs with the International Symbol of Accessibility; and van accessible parking spaces include the words “van accessible” on the signs.[246]  Eight of the surveyed facilities that provide parking spaces for customers estimated the costs for providing signs to identify the van accessible parking spaces.[247]  The estimates ranged from $113 for a wall mounted sign to $572 for a new pole and sign.[248]  Four facilities assigned the costs for providing signs to identify the van accessible parking spaces to the final revised guidelines; and four facilities assigned the costs for the signs to the USPS’ current standards because the existing signs did not comply with the standards or needed to be replaced.

9.3  Letter Drops and Stamp Machines

 

The final revised guidelines require at least one of each type of depository, vending machine, and change machine to meet the technical requirements for operable parts, including 48 inches maximum for an unobstructed high forward or side reach.[249]  The USPS’ current standards do not specifically address depositories, vending machines, and change machines in leased facilities that are not newly constructed or altered.[250] 

 

Twelve of the surveyed facilities have letter drops and stamp machines above the 48 inches maximum for an unobstructed high forward or side reach.  The estimates for lowering the letters drops and stamp machines ranged from $150 to $1,600.  Seven facilities assigned the costs for lowering the letter drops and stamp machines to the final revised guidelines, and five facilities assigned the costs to the USPS’ current standards.

9.4  Other Customer Areas

 

Twelve of the surveyed facilities will have to make alterations to provide an accessible route to customer areas.  The alterations included replacing curb ramps, sidewalks, and doorway landings; installing ramps; and widening doorways.  The estimates for the alterations ranged from $993 to $10,800.  The USPS’ current standards require an accessible route to customer areas in leased facilities.[251]  Nine facilities assigned the costs for the alterations to provide an accessible route to customer areas to the USPS’ current standards; two facilities assigned the costs to the final revised guidelines; and one facility assigned some costs to the USPS’ current standards and other costs to the final revised guidelines.

 

The other alterations that will have to be made to customer areas include:

 

  • Parking Access Aisles – Two facilities will have to replace built-up curb ramps in parking access aisles.[252]  The estimates for replacing the curb ramps ranged from $2,940 to $3,973.  The USPS’ current standards require parking access aisles in leased facilities to be level.[253]  The final revised guidelines specifically prohibit curb ramps from projecting into parking access aisles.[254]  The facilities assigned the costs for replacing the curb ramps to the final revised guidelines.

 

  • Post Office Boxes – Two facilities reported they will have to relocate post office boxes.  The estimates for relocating the post office boxes ranged from $320 to $1,134.  The USPS current standards require at least 5 percent of post office boxes to be located in the second or third set of modules from the floor, approximately 12 to 36 inches above the floor.[255]  The final revised guidelines require at least 5 percent of mailboxes to comply with the technical requirements for operable parts, including 48 inches maximum for an unobstructed high forward or side reach and 15 inches minimum for an unobstructed low forward or side reach.[256]  The facilities assigned the costs for relocating the post office boxes to the final revised guidelines.

 

  • Writing Desks – Fifteen facilities will have to replace writing desks in customer areas.  The estimates for replacing the writing desks ranged from $1,300 to $2,290.  The USPS’ current standards require at least one writing desk to provide knee clearance and the top of the desk to be between 28 inches to 34 inches above the floor.[257]  The final revised guidelines require at least 5 percent of work surfaces to provide knee and toe clearance and the top of the surface to be between 28 inches to 34 inches above the floor.[258]  The facilities assigned the costs for replacing the writing desks to the USPS’ current standards. 

 

  • Doors – Ten facilities reported they will have to replace door closers.[259]  One facility will also have to replace door hardware to comply with the USPS’ current standards.

9.5  Employee Areas

 

The USPS’ current standards require employee areas in leased facilities to comply with the requirements for substantially altered facilities.[260]  Substantially altered facilities are required to have at least one accessible route, one accessible entrance, and one accessible toilet room for each sex.[261]  Substantially altered facilities are also required to give consideration to providing accessible parking spaces, drinking fountains, storage, fire alarms, public telephones, seating, tables, and work surfaces.[262]

 

The final revised guidelines do not differentiate between customer areas and employee areas in leased facilities covered by the Architectural Barriers Act.  The final revised guidelines require an accessible route to primary function areas in leased facilities, and allow the USPS define what areas are primary function areas.[263]  Among the elements and spaces required to be accessible in leased facilities are: parking spaces, toilet rooms, drinking fountains, fire alarms, public telephones, and dining surfaces and work surfaces.[264]

 

Only 13 of the 22 facilities surveyed their employee areas for accessibility.[265]  Three of the facilities will have to make alterations to provide an accessible route to the employee areas.  The estimates for the alterations ranged from $2,000 to $13,675.  The facilities assigned the costs for the alterations to provide an accessible route to employee areas to the final revised guidelines.

 

  The other alterations that will have to be made to employee areas include:

 

  • Parking Spaces – Five facilities will have to alter employee parking spaces to make them accessible.  The estimates for altering the employee parking spaces ranged from $400 to $8,900.  The facilities assigned the costs to the final revised guidelines.

 

  • Door Hardware – Nine facilities will have to replace the door hardware in employee areas.  The estimates for replacing the door hardware ranged from $100 to $2,200.  Four facilities assigned all or part of the costs to the USPS’ current standards, and five facilities assigned the costs to the final revised guidelines.

 

  • Drinking Fountains – Nine facilities will have to provide an accessible drinking fountain in employee areas.  The estimates for an accessible drinking fountain ranged from $2,000 to $2,450.  One facility assigned the costs to the USPS’ current standards, and eight facilities assigned the costs to the final revised guidelines.

 

  • Signs – Three facilities will have to provide accessible signs in employee areas.  The surveys do not provide any details about the signs.  The estimates for the signs ranged from $200 to $500.  The facilities assigned the costs to the final revised guidelines.

 

  • Other Elements and Spaces – A facility will have to provide a ramp at an emergency egress door and assigned the costs ($8,100) to the USPS’ current standards.  A facility will have to alter a toilet room to make it accessible and assigned the costs ($9,594) to the USPS’ current standards.  A facility will have to alter a toilet room, a counter in a break room, and a locker to make them accessible and assigned some costs ($5,900) to the USPS’ current standards and other costs ($250) to the final revised guidelines.