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Detectable warning surfaces consist of small truncated domes built in or applied to a walking surface that are detectable underfoot. On pedestrian access routes, detectable warning surfaces indicate the boundary between a pedestrian route and a vehicular route where there is a flush rather than a curbed connection for pedestrians who are blind or have low vision. The proposed guidelines require detectable warning surfaces to be installed on newly constructed and altered curb ramps and blended transitions at pedestrian street crossings (see R208.1 and R305).31

Current Requirements for Detectable Warning Surfaces on Curb Ramps

When the Access Board issued the 1991 ADAAG, the guidelines contained a requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps. The requirement was temporarily suspended between 1994 and 2001 pending additional research and review of issues relating to requirement. The Access Board deferred addressing detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps in the 2004 ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines pending completion of the guidelines for pedestrian facilities in the public right-of-way. As a result of these actions, there are different requirements for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps in the accessibility standards included the regulations issued by the Department of Justice implementing Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and by the Department of Transportation implementing Section 504.

When the Department of Justice initially issued regulations in 1991 implementing Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the regulations required state and local governments to use accessibility standards (hereinafter referred to as the "DOJ 1991 Standards") that included the 1991 ADAAG which contained a requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps, or the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) which did not contain a requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps.32 When the Department of Justice adopted the DOJ 2010 Standards, those standards included the 2004 ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines which do not contain a requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps.

The Department of Transportation regulations implementing Section 504 require state and local governments that receive federal financial assistance directly or indirectly from the Department to use accessibility standards that include the 2004 ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines, as modified by the Department, or UFAS. See 49 CFR 27.3 (b). The Department of Transportation modified the 2004 ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines by retaining certain requirements from the 1991 ADAAG, including the requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps. See 406.8 in Appendix A to 49 CFR part 37.

State and local transportation departments will be affected differently by the requirement in the proposed guidelines for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps depending on the accessibility standards that they use for curb ramps in the public right-of-way. The Access Board reviewed the standard drawings for the design of curb ramps on state transportation department websites and found that the transportation departments in all 50 states and the District of Columbia specify detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps in the standard drawings.33 Most local transportation departments use standard drawings for the design of curb ramps that are consistent with the standard drawings maintained by their state transportation departments. These state and local transportation departments use either the DOJ 1991 Standards, which include the 1991 ADAAG requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps, or the Department of Transportation accessibility standards, which include the 2004 ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines as modified by the Department to include the requirement from the 1991 ADAAG for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps.34

Governmental Units Affected

State and local transportation departments are divided into four groups for the purpose of evaluating the impacts of the requirement in the proposed guidelines for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps:

The impacts of the requirement in the proposed guidelines for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps on state and local transportation departments in Groups 1, 2, 3, and 4 are summarized in the table below.

Group 1
Standards Used: UFAS – did not contain requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps

Impacts:
Not aware of any state and local transportation departments in Group 1

Question 4 in preamble to proposed guidelines seeks information on state and local transportation departments in Group 1

Group 1 will cease to exist as of March 15, 2012, and any state or local transportation departments currently in Group 1 will fall into one of the other groups

Group 2*
Standards Used: Standards in Department of Transportation regulations implementing Section 504 – contains requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps

Impacts:
Group 2 consists of state and local transportation departments that receive federal financial assistance directly or indirectly from the Department of Transportation No impacts on state and local transportation departments in Group 2 compared to standards currently used

Group 3*
Standards Used:
Standards in Department of Justice regulations implementing Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Before September 15, 2010: DOJ 1991 Standards – contains requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps

Between September 15, 2010 and March 14, 2012:
DOJ 1991 Standards – contains requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps; or DOJ 2010 Standards – does not contain requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps

On or after March 15, 2012: DOJ 2010 Standards – does not contain requirement for detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps

Impacts:
Group 3 consists of local transportation departments that do not receive federal financial assistance directly or indirectly from the Department of Transportation

Impacts will depend on standards used and whether behavior will change as a result of DOJ 2010 Standards

Question 5 in preamble to proposed guidelines seeks information on whether local transportation departments in Group 3 will continue or discontinue providing detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps pending the future adoption of accessibility standards for pedestrian facilities in the public right-of-way by the Department of Justice

Group 4
Standards Used: Do not comply with accessibility standards for curb ramps

Impacts:
Unknown how many state and local transportation departments are in Group 4

Question 6 in preamble to proposed guidelines requests comments on whether the future adoption of accessibility standards for pedestrian facilities in the public right-of-way by the Department of Justice and Department of Transportation will have a positive or negative effect, or no effect on compliance rates by state and local transportation departments, particularly with respect to providing detectable warning surfaces on curb ramps

* Groups 2 and 3 exclude state and local transportation departments in Group 1.

Administration, “Information on Detectable Warnings” (May 6, 2002) at: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/ bikeped/dwm.htm.

Costs to Provide Detectable Warning Surfaces on Curb Ramps

Detectable warning surfaces are available in a variety of materials. The Volpe Center gathered data from local transportation departments and vendors on various detectable warning materials and estimated the costs of 8 square feet of the materials for a typical curb ramp as shown in the table below. The estimates do not include installation costs.

Detectable Warning Materials Costs for Typical Curb Ramp
(Installation Costs Not Included)
Concrete pavers $48 to $80
Brick pavers $128
Polymer and composite materials $120 to $200
Stainless steel or cast iron products $240

Questions 7 and 8 in the preamble to the proposed guidelines seek additional information on the costs for detectable warning materials and installation of the materials on a typical curb ramp, and the number of curb ramps that are constructed or altered on an annual basis in the public right-of-way by state and local transportation departments.