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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Award-Winning ADA Sidewalk Hazard Abatement Program Creates Walking Friendly Community

If you’ve driven down 7th Street recently, your eyes will be drawn to the many, bright, yellow-domed pedestrian ramps that have been added to sidewalk corners. You’ll also see the city’s Street Maintenance Department crews completing new sidewalks.

Although spring was not conducive to concrete work, Field Supervisor Robert Royce and his team of sidewalk enhancement experts have been pouring some of the smoothest, travel-friendly sidewalks this side of the Mississippi. Last week, the concrete crew finished the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)-funded portion of 7th Street.

The ADA Sidewalk Hazard Abatement Program started with the passage of the 2008-2009 budget. In that budget year, City Council created a program supporting systematic sidewalk repairs, tied to foregone taxes. The program is budgeted at $200,000/year and produces approximately 5,000 linear feet of sidewalk repairs annually, based on a five-year plan.

Although homeowners are still responsible for sidewalk repair and maintenance in accordance with Municipal Code Chapter 12.20., the city's five-year plan is a systematic approach to meeting ADA standards. Within the five-year plan area, work is accomplished primarily by the Street Maintenance Department. The city anticipates sidewalk repairs to pose some of the same challenges as pedestrian ramps, with which city street crews are already familiar. They've learned that every corner in town is unique just as every sidewalk repair will have its distinctive features.

This ADA Sidewalk Hazard Abatement Program account will fund repairs for ADA sidewalk deficiencies that are included in a Five-Year Priority Plan that will be updated and approved by the City Council on a yearly basis. The ADA Sidewalk Hazard Abatement Program was created from input by the ADA Transition Plan Advisory Group. The group consisted of community members, staff, and representatives from the community who are disabled.

Of particular note is a contribution which led to more efficient sidewalk planning. “It was such a learning experience to have input from those representing the community who are disabled,” said Renata McLeod, Project Coordinator. “They were able to open our eyes to the need for having complete routes, even if it was just one side of the street.” Because of their contributions, first-year sidewalk abatement on 3rd Street from Harrison south to Lakeside was all on one side of the street to create a “complete route.”

In general, ADA guides cities to prioritize repairs first in civic areas, followed by commercial areas, then residential areas. The first Five-Year plan focused on "catch up" work necessary to establish an accessible route to connect the investment already made in the 300+ pedestrian ramps constructed on 3rd Street, 4th Street, Lakeside Avenue, Best Avenue, and Harrison Avenue. By completing these areas first, the pedestrian ramps already built and paid for would provide a complete and usable ADA route. In general, they are also in high traffic, civic corridors with some residential and commercial benefit.

Since the program was adopted, over 17,500 linear feet of sidewalks planned for abatement have been completed and over 400 truncated domes on sidewalk corners have been poured in place. At the 2011 Association of Idaho Cities Conference, the city’s ADA Sidewalk Hazard Abatement Program was recognized with an AIC City Achievement Award. Winners are selected for improving quality of life, reducing the costs of resources, or solving a community problem.

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