Wisconsin Department of Transportation
Dear Members of Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board,
Thank you for the advanced opportunity to comment on the draft of the proposed
ADA guidelines for Public Rights-of-Way. An abbreviated summary of our following
comments is enclosed for quick reference. We share your interest in getting a
set of guidelines completed, approved, and available to planners, project
engineers, and members of the public. It is evident from reviewing the
Guidelines that a considerable amount of work went into their development. We
appreciate the dedicated work of the Access Board and the thoughtful
contributions of the Advisory Committee (PROWAAC) in the development of these
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) worked directly with the
AASHTO Public Rights-of-Way Ad hoc Committee in developing a set of comments
regarding the proposed guides. In fact, our Director of the Bureau of Highway
Operations, David Vieth, was a representative on that committee. We endorse and
support the comments
that were prepared by
this committee and subsequently approved by the AASHTO Board of Directors.
In addition to that full endorsement, we have some additional comments. In most
cases, these comments expand upon comments offered by AASHTO. We also encourage
you to consider the offer made by AASHTO to work collectively with them to
address some of the controversial or perhaps unsettled issues. Similarly, we
extend to you our interest to work with the Board on issues that we may have
researched or have more extensive experience than other states. For example, we
are one of the lead states in testing many different types of applications of
truncated domes. We have already received a significant number of inquiries from
other “snow belt” states as to the content of these tests and the application
techniques that were used.
In terms of more specific comments, we will begin with the definition and
resulting requirements of the word “alteration”. We are especially concerned
with the vagueness of the term and what it may or may not trigger for
accessibility coverage. We do not disagree with a “sliding scale” concept where
greater alterations will necessitate more substantial accommodations for people
who are disabled, but we definitely need to see a much clearer identification of
specific accessibility improvement types tied to the different classes of
improvement types. We ask that the proposed rules include, not just a few
examples, but a set of expected accessibility improvements tied to the standard
categories of highway projects - resurfacing, rehabilitation, reconstruction,
maintenance, etc. Again, we are not opposed to making the appropriate
accessibility improvements, but we need to know for the purposes of project
scoping and budgeting, what the accessibility improvements will be along with
their cost. We strongly recommend that the proposed rule show this
alteration-accessibility improvement relationship so we do have the opportunity
to comment on the appropriateness between project types and resulting required
accessibility improvements they will trigger.
We are also concerned, not only because of the significant number of sidewalks
on our system, but because of the extensive systems of sidewalks in Wisconsin
communities, that the “changes in level” sidewalk standard of 6.4mm and 13mm
will be nearly impossible to achieve. Due to our harsh winter climate, frost
heaves are common. In many cases, sidewalk blocks will resettle in late spring
and stay within the above standards until winter. So if the standard were met
for most of the year, but not the entire year, what would be the appropriate and
practical resolution of not meeting this standard for only a portion of the
year? Most communities within the state use a 518 inch ADA standard for sidewalk
vertical changes. Notification of a tripping hazard or annual inspections would
trigger that repair. Annual inspections, even for smaller communities, are
typically done by doing just a section of the community at a time. By going to
this higher standard, sidewalk inspection could literally not move beyond the
first section of the city selected for inspection since just a year of
weathering could create another significant set of sidewalk candidates for
repair within the same inspection area. We do concur with the AASHTO statement
that this will be a burden to DOTs, but it will be especially difficult for
snowbelt communities to maintain those standards and may impair communities’
abilities to effectively prioritize and treat the most serious sidewalk
conditions across the entire community.
Since these “changes in level” thresholds are fairly tight and just a change of
a couple of millimeters could trigger the replacement of sidewalk blocks, we
support AASHTO’s proposed research into appropriate construction tolerances for
sidewalks and request that this section be reserved until such research is
We would also like to highlight another comment made by AASHTO that was not
included in their narrative section, but was included in their spreadsheet of
comments. Under the proposed Section 1103.3 on clear width, we do feel that 32”
clear width is suitable for short distances to allow enough space to get around
incidental obstructions such as a signal control box or a power pole at an
Wisconsin is one of the few states to have a state statute that shows a
preference for the diagonal ramp. Interestingly, this ramp design was strongly
favored at the time of adoption by a substantial number of people who were
blind. That was a significant reason we adopted the diagonal ramp as the
preferred directional ramp. Wisconsin will be taking steps to reverse that state
statute and to place the perpendicular ramp as the preferred ramp. However,
there will be places that a diagonal ramp is a reasonable option. We suggest
using the language provided in the FHWA Part 2 Designing Sidewalks and Trails
for Access which states that they are acceptable in low volume residential areas
or where a set of perpendicular ramps cannot be provided because of problems
with installing utilities.
As more than a point of clarity, whenever the Board decides that another section
of AADAG applies to a section of the Public Rights-of-Way, we see a need to
restate the exact wording of that section, or portion of that section, rather
then simply referring to it by section number.
WisDOT is especially concerned with the language of Section 1105.62 requiring
pedestrian activated traffic signals at roundabouts. A number of roundabouts
have been designed in Wisconsin and many are in the design process. To place
signals in a roundabout is contrary to the very principle of a modern
roundabout. Fortunately, an NCHRP project is underway to study the effects of
roundabouts on pedestrians and bicyclists. We concur with the AASHTO
recommendation to reserve Section 1105.6 on roundabouts until the study is
There are several other issues that need to be further researched before an ADA
guide is established. We are in agreement with the AASHTO comments regarding
further research on other issues and the deferral of those relevant guides until
the research findings can be applied. In addition to the specific research needs
mentioned above, we see a need for research on turn lanes at intersections and
accessible pedestrian signal systems.
Lastly, the Access Board needs to recognize that the Guides will have
significant cost implications for the Departments of Transportation and
communities since these will ultimately become un-funded requirements. We agree
with the recommendations by AASHTO, that a maximum cost limit, as a percentage
of the highway construction project, could be used to determine if an
accessibility treatment is an unreasonable expenditure given the size of the
project being undertaken. In addition, an estimate of the total cost of
implementation of the guidelines needs to be determined to access the impact on
the transportation programs.
Thank you for this opportunity to comment. We look forward to furthering our
contributions in making Wisconsin and the nation a more accessible place for
Thomas E. Carlsen, P.E.
Summary of Comments by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation
On Proposed ADA Guidelines
• We endorse and support the AASHTO comments
recently submitted to the Board.
• We offer to work with the Board on Guideline issues where we have had some
research experience such as “truncated domes” in snow belt situations.
• We recommend the rules tie sets of accessibility improvements to standard
types of highway projects.
• We are concerned that the “changes in level” sidewalk standard of 6.4mm and
13mm will be nearly impossible to achieve in snow belt states because of the
impacts of frost heaves and recommend this section be reserved pending
completion of further research.
• We feel 32” clear width is suitable for short distances to get around
• We would like the option to allow diagonal ramps in low volume residential
areas or where perpendicular ramps cannot be provided.
• We see a need to restate exact language of a new section of the AADAG decides
applies to Public Right-of-way rather than a reference by section number.
• We have a great concern about the requirement to have pedestrian activated
signals at roundabouts which can great affect the operation of such features and
suggest reserving Section 1105.6 until current research is concluded.
• In addition to AASHTO identified research relating to this subject area, we
recommend further study on the impacts of turn lanes at intersections and
accessible pedestrian signal systems.
• Finally, we are concerned that the individual project and total program cost
impact be clearly identified.