There now is a time line associated with making city sidewalks compliant with federal standards.
But, city staff said the schedule included in the Washington Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) transition plan approved Monday is fluid.
John Nilges, director of public services, proposed the revised plan to the Washington City Council Monday night, noting that some noncompliant sidewalks are scheduled to be replaced as far as 40 years from now.
“The (schedule) can always be modified, but part of that requirement is to have that schedule in place,” he said. “I will also say that we are working toward this schedule already.”
The intent, he explained, is to have the plan in place to better secure federal funds for major road projects.
Nilges added that it’ss important to have the ADA plan in place so the city will be scored higher when seeking STP grants.
The council approved a resolution accepting the ADA transition plan in preparation of city staff seeking funding for a Third Street overlay project. The STP application is due June 14.
STP grants are administered through the East-West Gateway Council of Governments (EWGW) and funded through MoDOT (Missouri Department of Transportation) and the federal government.
EWGW utilizes a point system to recommend funding for STP grants. Sidewalks and bike paths weigh more heavily on the overall score now than in the past.
Last week, HDR Engineering Inc., the firm that developed the ADA plan, said to bring sidewalks, crosswalks and curb ramps in Washington into compliance with federal standards is estimated to cost $7,464,649.
City leaders now must take a new approach in replacing sidewalks compared to 1 to -20 years ago, according to Nilges.
“MoDOT and the federal government essentially are saying sidewalks are another form of transportation, just like a street — it’s a little bit of a transition in mindset, but I do think it is a positive for the city,” he said.
Nilges has stated there is a difference between ADA-compliant sidewalks and safe sidewalks.
For example, 96 percent of the sidewalks in Downtown Washington are noncompliant, but most are not hazards.
Historically, the city has replaced sidewalks based primarily on safety and tripping hazards.
“Ten years ago there was a lot of checkerboarding of sidewalks and that is because the focus was on hazardous sidewalks — to make the money go as far as you can and keep the risk of someone tripping as low as possible,” Nilges commented.
“I think we were doing the right thing at that time, but now we are transitioning to 10 years down the road as these things get into worse condition,” he added. “When (sidewalks) are pushing 40, 50 to 60 years old, it’s time to put the investment back into them.”
Councilman Greg Skornia questioned the cost of replacing panels compared to an entire block.
“Would it be more economical to replace all of the sidewalks on a block instead of trying to save three or four squares?” he asked. “It seems to me that when you try to save a couple of squares, and you have to do all of that handwork around that existing concrete you may have been better off just tearing it all out.”
Nilges said that in many cases, it is appropriate to replace the entire block.
“I totally agree. We need to look at these as total tearout and replacements,” he said.
Nilges further explained that replacing an entire block of sidewalks still is much more costly than replacing only hazardous panels.
“In order to rip out entire blocks of sidewalks there is a large amount of money that you have to set forth,” he said. “When say, 75 percent of panels are in good, passable conditions, but not ADA compliant then, maybe we need to go in and replace one panel. It doesn’t make sense to tear it all out when there is some service life left, so it is an evaluation that you do on each individual block.”
Included in the ADA Transition Plan were 11 city facilities. Each facility was evaluated for paths between provided parking spaces and building entrances, access to goods and services, restrooms and public access and additional access.
It would cost $237,450 to bring each facility into full compliance, according to the HDR Engineering report.
Councilman Joe Holtmeier asked if the city would address bringing buildings into compliance before sidewalks.
Nilges said projects will be addressed as funding becomes available. If there is work already slated to be conducted at a facility, then more ADA compliance work can be added to the project.
“If there is a project replacing sinks at city hall, it becomes very high priority because you have a project on the horizon.” he said. “It just provides a template and a working document.
“As money comes available we will look at the budget every year,” Nilges added. “This is just another method to do those evaluations as we prioritize projects.”