Dennis E. Royer
|October 28, 2002|
Dear Committee Members:
I am writing to provide comments on the draft standards for accessibility. I have thirty years in dealing with these issues, and although an engineer by profession, I will address these issues in a less detailed perspective, having read numerous comments submitted by my engineering brethren.
In 1990, the City and County of Denver received an award as the "Most accessible City in the United States", an award that we are very proud to have received. Denver has spent over 50 years developing and implementing similar standards. When these draft standards were originally introduced in the early 1990's, the late Frank Nelson, Director of the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, and I worked diligently to create appropriate methodologies to integrate the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act into real life applications. We did not agree with all the standards proposed, similar to the situation we find ourselves with the current proposals. I would like to address some of the issues with the draft standards.
On Street Parking: It is not necessary to present a standard or guideline for on street parking at a ratio of 1 in 25. Limitations and availability of off street parking spaces make this an unnecessary mandate.
Pedestrian Signaling Devices: This is an issue that seems minor but has tremendous ramifications, not only for government but the disabled community as well. For years I was told by the National Federation of the Blind not to install audible devices because the visually impaired will become dependent on these devices rather than their senses. As a result every traffic signal will have to be retrofitted at significant cost. Unlike the cost estimates provided by the American Council for the Blind, the actual cost will be several times higher. Denver presently has approximately 1250 signals which will result in an immediate cost of over $5 million to convert. If the NFB is correct, then these changeovers cannot be piecemeal, implemented over 20 years, but must be implemented over the short term to avoid liability claims for locations that have yet to be retrofitted. With an annual signal budget for all maintenance and construction of only $1 million, we would need to commit five years budget allocations or receive an immediate increase to address this one issue. Having installed several audible signals as demonstrations while the City Traffic Engineer, I have heard all the complaints associated with this issue. This is a policy question that must be addressed by the disabled community as well as the government representatives before standards are finalized.
Alternate Circulation Paths: Many areas simply do not allow same side paths without tremendous impact on construction costs or eliminating lanes of travel in the right of way. We already attempted to meet this standard and have for the past 30 years; however, practical decision making does not always allow this option. It should be a recommendation, not a mandatory standard.
Handrails for Grades: We already have numerous street furniture requirements which impose significant liability exposure. As someone with numerous years trying to implement streetscape while minimizing liability, I have attempted to avoid railings, as they pose one of the most difficult problems for implementation due to exposure to sighted people, let alone visually impaired. Adding these to grade differentials along paths and sidewalks will not create a safer environment as intended, but will increase the hazard potential to everyone. Let's look at this requirement from the perspective of all users in limited space and see if there are not less restrictive design options.
Roundabouts: Signalizing roundabouts for pedestrian crossings will signal (no pun intended) the end of this strategy for cost reasons. The intent of this strategy is to avoid signalization. As such, this requirement will emphasize the traffic signal as the cost effective solution. Most roundabouts are installed on local or collector streets that do not typically have signals. This requirement would introduce signals into residential areas where they are not conducive with good traffic control.
In our pragmatic world, costs will always drive the alternatives that are implemented. Many of the requirements of these standards create excessive cost demands on limited resources. Creating unfunded mandates is an issue that the media and our elected officials get quite interested in addressing. These standards need to be reduced in their overall breadth to avoid political backlash. Many of the standards proposed are good. Therefore, let's discard or revise the more controversial ones to get as many beneficial ones implemented and, most importantly, funded. We can more prudently address these issues over time and may, following adoption of the remaining standards, develop support for those delayed.
Thank you for the opportunity to respond. If I can assist in any way, please feel free to contact me.
Dennis E. Royer
Deputy Manager of Public Works for Program Development
City and County of Denver
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