Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sidewalk Reconstruction on Dr. MLK Jr. St.

Check it out! Along with resurfacing the street, the City has rebuilt many of the sidewalks along Dr. MLK Jr. Street between 16th & 21st Streets.

The above photo is looking south on the west side of MLK, across from 17th Street. A newly constructed, smooth walking surface should enhance pedestrian safety and enjoyment.

Unfortunately, upon closer inspection it becomes apparent that there are some serious deficiencies in the design of these sidewalks. While it would appear that the City was simply "replacing like for like", I'm not sure that exempts this project from the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I'm not a lawyer, so I'll not speculate on what would happen if a lawsuit were filed, but I do know that a minimum width of 36" (for one-way traffic) is required for any walkway intended for public use, and a minimum 60" path (to provide for passing) must be provided at regular intervals (something like every 100-200 feet). Thus, cities typically adopt a standard requiring a minimum 60" sidewalk width, but narrower widths can be acceptable in limited situations. Including the curb, there is 26" of space to the left of the utility pole and 21" on the right side.

I can imagine that utility pole (and wire) relocation might be complicated and expensive. But would it have been so difficult or expensive to widen the sidewalk behind the utility poles? When the City rebuilt the sidewalk, they rebuilt the driveway in the foreground to a distance of 39" behind the sidewalk. Couldn't they have done that to provide an ADA-compliant path around the poles? As constructed, the wider path is to left of the pole, which forces someone in a wheelchair to risk falling into the street.

There's also a fire hydrant just south of this utility pole, however, there is a 36" gap between the two, so although it would be unconventional, it would appear that an ADA-compliant walkway could have been provided, if the City had added to the width of the sidewalk where it encounters this pole.

This photo is looking south along MLK, just south of 17th Street. This particular area of sidewalk was not reconstructed, presumably because it is in pretty good shape. That makes sense.

But if you would make a decision to not reconstruct this sidewalk because the surface is in good shape, wouldn't you recognize that the vegetation blocking the sidewalk needs to be removed?