Advocates: Ramps poorly installed

July 25, 2008
By

DAVID TABER


Photo by Bill Allan The curb ramp recently reconstructed at the corner of Centre and Green streets, shown here just after it was made, is out of compliance with Massachusetts Architectural Access Board standards unless the City is prepared to raise the height of the street by 5 inches, according to the Disability Consortium, Inc. The groups says another 13 reconstructed ramps are also out of compliance for various reasons.

City: Contractor will have to make ramps meet accessibility standards

CENTRE/SOUTH ST.— Almost one-third of the new curb ramps installed this summer on Jamaica Plain’s main thoroughfare are not compliant with state standards, according to a recent survey by the Disability Policy Consortium (DPC).

If the city confirms that the 14 ramps are non-compliant they will have to be rebuilt at the contractor’s expense, Tim McCarthy of the City Public Works Department told the Gazette.

The standards, enforced by the state Architectural Access Board (AAB) are more stringent than those required under the federal Americans With Disabilities Act.

Of the 41 new curb ramps that have been installed, seven have steeper inclines than the 8.1 percent allowed under AAB standards, according to the DPC survey. Six of those seven also violate regulations by not coming down flush with the street.

Instead, those curb cut slopes reach into the street via asphalt bumps that, in some cases, extend into travel lanes on the street, another AAB violation.

At other crossings, the gap between the bottoms of curb ramps and the street surface are off by more than the half-inch allowed by law. Other transitions are slightly below street level, leading to water pooling and sediment buildup at the bottom of the curb ramps after rain.

David Harris of the DPC toured Centre and South streets with the Gazette on July 21, reviewing the violations.

“What they are being paid for and what they didn’t do is lower three pieces of curb a half-inch here,” Harris said, pointing out a curb ramp at the north corner of Child and South streets, where a portion of the curb rises an inch above street level.

“I am talking about this as if it is a piece of cake to do this, and there are some challenges, but you get experts and they are artists,” he said.

Roslindale-based contractors Fred Deroma and Sons are doing the sidewalk work. A different contractor is handling the street repaving.

“None [of the curb ramps] have been signed off on. The contractor is aware that…compliance has to be 100 percent,” McCarthy said.

The contractor will not be paid, he said, “unless we are in complete compliance when the process is buttoned up.”

McCarthy said he had not looked at the JP work and could not comment on specific violations cited by the DPC. He said contractors are waiting to do some work until utilities work is done on the streets.

During the walk with the Gazette, Harris for the first time took his level to sections of curb ramps on the east side of South Street between Hall and New Washington streets that had not been renovated in the course of the recent work. Five of the eight curb ramps measured have slopes steeper than 8.1 percent.

The curb ramps the city did not fix are also located in awkward places, about 10 feet away from the corners on the side streets off of South Street.

Harris said that placement was a “relic” of curb-cut design from “30 or 40 years ago.” He said he did not know what the logic behind that curb cut placement had been.

One drawback of the placement is that they are so far from the street corner, cars often park in front of them, he said.

In another interesting case, an incline that leads from the sidewalk to a driveway entrance for an apartment building near the corner of South and New Washington Streets, has a slope of 23.6 percent.

Because it is paved with concrete, it is hard to tell if that slope is considered a curb cut or part of the sidewalk, but either way it would likely be out of compliance. The maximum allowed slope for a sidewalk is 5 percent.

Citywide, the DPC has been monitoring city sidewalks and curb ramps for years, and a recent survey it conducted of 28 recently rebuilt sidewalks and curb ramps found that 44 percent were not in compliance.

The DPC presented its findings to Mayor Thomas Menino earlier this month. Last week, the Boston Herald reported that Menino plans to devote $15 million over the next five years to improving handicapped sidewalk access.

The DPC survey presented to the mayor did not include the work currently unde rway in JP. That more recent review came after DPC Executive Director Bill Allan, a JP resident, observed the work being done here, Harris said.

Both McCarthy and Jennifer Mehigan, a spokesperson from the mayor’s press office who sat in on the meeting between the DPC and the mayor, said they were unaware of the DPC’s review of the JP work.