by eila in Accessibility, Civil and Human Rights, Events, Pedestrians, Public Health & Safety, Seniors, Transportation
Posted on December 2, 2010 at 2:29 pm
Last Modified on December 6, 2010 at 10:11 am
|December 6, 2010|
At a November 9 BOA meeting, Alderman Bill White requested a Special Public Safety Hearing to understand the justification for using brick paver materials in the recently constructed Somerville Avenue crosswalks, and to consider whether these surface materials deprive people with disabilities from utilizing street facilities with equal ease. This is follow-up regarding one of the items in the letter signed by 16 residents, and submitted to the BOA on September 15, 2010, regarding Somerville Avenue’s street reconstruction practices.
The Public Hearing will be December 6 at 6 pm in City Hall.
I understand that MA DOT staff will be there, along with Somerville Traffic and Parking Director and DPW.
Below is the letter I sent to City Clerk John Long to distribute to BOA Public Health and Safety Committee.
SV readers: If you attend this hearing, would you please post a Beat Report about it? thanks!
December 1, 2010
RE: December 6, 2010 Public Hearing on the impediments caused when bricks and paver units are used within the pedestrian rights of ways.
TO: Alderman Bill White, Chair of the Public Health and Public Safety Committee,
Director Matt Dias, Traffic and Parking Department, DPW Commissioner Stan Koty, and
PHPS Committee members Alds. Gewirtz and Connolly
Dear Somerville Elected Officials and Somerville Department Directors,
Thank you, Alderman White, for initiating the December 6th Public Safety Hearing at 6 p.m. in City Hall, in order to focus on the impact that brick paver surface materials have on Somerville’s thousands of diverse residents of all ages who have ambulatory, neurologic and sensory impairments.
I regret that I cannot be at this meeting in person. This letter is submitted to testify regarding practical and legal issues that can arise from the use of discontinuous small surface materials such as bricks and brick paver units.
The ongoing concerns brought up by residents from Ciampa Manor, Properzi Manor, Bryant Manor,and Cobble Hill Apartments have proven that Davis Square’s brick and brick paver units (on sidewalks and curbcuts) are not considered a welcoming or satisfactory and safe pedestrian environment for residents of all ages with balance insecurity and mobility impairments. The lack of maintenance and irregular surface conditions also cause visually impaired and Blind residents to feel unsafe, irregardless of mobility skills. (I am legally blind and speak from personal experience.)
Davis Square is a relevant example of a completely noncompliant commercial district, due to the added need for repair caused by similar materials. A sampling of code compliance issues can be found in a blog called “Davis Square Pedestrian Environment Not Up To Code“
Streets are considered public facilities and the City of Somerville has legal mandates to construct and maintain code-compliant street facilities. For an example of relevant case law, please see Barden vs. City of Sacramento. For Federal authority cite, please see 28 CFR 35.151(c). A number of informative resources are also available here: http://www.access-board.gov/prowac/
In June 2009, three partner disability advocacy organizations published an Open Letter to the mayor in the Somerville Journal. We requested that he refrain from choosing bricks and brick paver materials throughout Somerville Avenue’s rights of ways. The issues we raised were ignored; the materials and supplies were purchased, and paver work was begun ten months later.
Today, there are approximately 36 newly constructed crosswalks along Somerville Avenue composed of small paving units bedded and jointed in sand. These crosswalks link reciprocal public bus stops and other intersections and are also at side street intersections from Union Square to Elm Street along Somerville Avenue.
These discontinuous surfaces have the effect of impeding safe and comfortable travel for wheelchair drivers, because the whole-body jostling HURTS bones, muscles, joints and nerves. People with balance problems will also need to cross Somerville Avenue’s paver crosswalks with extra care, extra time, and extra stress.
These materials are also associated with costly additional repair and maintenance issues- especially, when laid in high traffic volume streets, like Somerville Avenue (approximately 29,000 cars daily).
Known repair issues will include: damaged pavers, depressions and edge restraints; joint width changes, faulting, heaving, horizontal creep, joint sand issues, missing pavers, patching, rutting, etc.
Code compliance issues include failure to maintain a continuously usable cross-slope.
The City of Boston was recently fined and had to rip out newly laid brick paver sidewalks on Huntington Avenue due to lack of maintaining a cross-slope compliant with State code.
The wasteful costs associated with the decision to use brick paver surface materials were: 4 years of litigation, 13 healthy trees, and over $265,000.
After the sidewalks were ripped up and replaced, the public benefits included: five blocks of accessible, safe, usable sidewalks near public transit, theatre, shops and schools. The benefits also include increased integration and social participation. Surrounding sidewalks, curbcuts and other street amentities are currently being monitored for code compliance, and may also be replaced as a result of ongoing similar issues.
As Alderman White has pointed out, Somerville has many roadway improvement projects in the pipeline.
Somerville can signal a step in the right direction by placing a Moratorium on the use of bricks and brick paver materials (except as ornamental touches) on all new pedestrian projects, from this moment forward.
Thank you and best wishes,
Eileen Feldman, Director
Community Access Project of Somerville