Saturday, October 27, 2001

City sidewalk ramp
schedule accelerated

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

The city has agreed to an "accelerated" schedule to develop more than 7,600 sidewalk curb cuts and ramps for wheelchairs by the end of 2007 at an estimated cost of $94.3 million.

The new timeline gives the city an additional 2.5 years to comply with a consent decree that resulted from a 1996 lawsuit, which claimed the Americans with Disabilities Act was being violated.

Attorney Stanley Levin, who filed the original lawsuit on behalf of Jim McDonnell and Mark Edwards, went back to federal court earlier this year claiming the city had not made concerted efforts to abide by the decree.

Levin said a key provision of the settlement is the appointment of local ADA consultant Paul Sheriff to serve as court monitor.

The city will submit quarterly status reports, which will reviewed by Sheriff, who will then submit summaries to the court and other parties. Quarterly status conferences between the parties are also required.

"We just don't think they had the will or intention or desire to (comply) until we brought it to their attention to do it," Levin said. "Hopefully, they'll do now but if they don't, they'll have to explain it to the judge."

City Managing Director Ben Lee said the cost, complexity and time requirements of the project were bigger than initially envisioned.

"Part of it is because the standards seem to changing and interpreted (differently) by various agencies," he said. "Second, the relocation of utilities is not as simple as just putting in a wheelchair ramp."

Not only do fire hydrants and drainage catch basins need to be relocated, but "anytime you mess with a traffic signal or traffic control box basically requires reconstructing an entire intersection."

The new strategy provides a clearer and more efficient means of meeting the consent decree, Lee said.

Planned ramps are being broken down into first- and second-priority categories, with first priority sites those that have no ramps at all and are in the vicinity of heavily trafficked areas such as schools, hospitals, government buildings or commercial centers, he said.

The plan is to have 1,500 of the ramp projects go to bids next month with construction beginning by the end of the year, Lee said. Another 1,500 ramps will be sent out to design consultants beginning early next year, he said.

Lee estimated that the typical ramp, with no disruption to utilities, costs about $1,400.

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