by eila in Accessibility, Civil and Human Rights, Development and Zoning, Environment and Open Space, Housing, Transportation
Posted on December 15, 2011 at 5:18 pm
Last Modified on February 18, 2012 at 6:35 pm
The City of Somerville submitted a Variance application to the Architectural Access Board on December 2, 2011 that stated that a “proposed secondary stair case” was being considered for the west sidewalks of Lowell St. Bridge to connect to the future Community Path Extension.
The Variance application requests a waiver from the State so that Somerville can spend $109K of public (State) funds to create an inaccessible extra staircase without adding any ramp or accessible features. The City submitted design plans with their Variance application.
Any pedestrian links at this location will also connect residents and visitors from the streets below to the future Lowell Street MBTA station (that Green Line T station is scheduled for the 2018-2020 construction season).
The Community Access Project and the Boston Center for Independent Living sent an Opposition letter to the State Board regarding this Variance.
This City of Somerville Variance application simply doesn’t make sense.
a. The Variance states, in response to question 5 (p. 3 of 6):
“This stair is in support of the accessible public route that will be the primary accessible way through the Maxwells’Green development from the Community Path to Lowell Street on the west side of the Lowell Street bridge.”
Since the stairs-only proposition will not offer any accessibility, how will the stairs “support” the accessible public route?
b. The Variance states, under question 6 (p. 3 of 6):
“A second ramp immediately adjacent to the proposed stairs would be redundant and cost prohibitive.”
Since there is already an accessible route, including stairs, being constructed through the Maxwell’s Green development on the west side of the Lowell Street Bridge and less than 200 feet away from the proposed stairs (also on the west side)- how can the Applicants claim that a ramp would be redundant without acknowledging how redundant these stairs (estimated cost: $109K) would be?
c. The Variance states, on the Additional Sheet for question 7 (page 6 of 6):
“The Maxwell’s Green development (currently under construction) is required by a legal convenent with the City and by additional funding provided by the state to construct a public accessible pedestrian route of travel from the future Community Path to the Lowell Street Bridge. This is the primary connection from the Path to Lowell Street and eventually the Lowell Street Green Line stop. The petitioner considers this connection the accessible route for the western side of the Lowell Street Bridge.“
Since the Covenant includes a promise to provide three (3) public pedestrian/bicycle access routes which “shall be ADA-compliant,” – not just one-, what gives the City the entitlement to “consider” one public route, to the exclusion of the other two, as being the “primary connection?“
d. The Variance states, on the Additional Sheet for question 7 (page 6 of 6):
“As a secondary point of access to the Lowell Street Bridge, a stairway is being proposed at the corner of the future Community Path and the west side of the Lowell Street Bridge. As is required by MassDOT”s review (as a stipulation of the funding) both the MBTA and MassDOT reviewed 25% plans of the project. Both agencies found the proposed stairway with no proposed ramp immediately adjacent raised accessibility concerns; however, a waiver from MAAB would satisfy their concerns…”
Since both the MassDOT and the MBTA have a multitude of Federal plus State legal requirements, to fulfill, including:
- TIP requirements, which state ”All projects for new construction that provide pedestrian facilities must incorporate accessible pedestrian features to the extent technically feasible, without regard to cost. The development process should ensure accessibility requirements are incorporated in the project.” see http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/civilrights/memos/ada_memo_clarificationa.htm
- Complete Streets and 2006 MassDOT Project Development & Design Guide, Draft
- Public Rights-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines (P.R.O.W.A.G.) of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and
- State Architectural Access Board (AAB) regulations.
… how can the City claim that a waiver from the MAAB will satisfy the Federal (civil rights as well as) architectural accessibility requirements of either MassDOT or the MBTA?
e. The Variance states, on the Additional Sheet for question 7 (page 6 of 6):
“Finally, given that the state has already provided $380,000 in public money to create the public pedestrian connection through Maxwell’s Green, the cost of buileding a second ramp (estimated at $337,600) seems redundant and an inappropriate use of public monies.”
How can the City of Somerville justify the use of 109K of public funding just to provide an exclusionary, inaccessible second staircase, less than 200 feet away from another staircase on the west side of Lowell Street, as being an appropriate use of public funds?
 In January 2007, Curtatone and the developers signed a covenant in which the Developers promise to provide three public pedestrian/bicycle access routes which include “iii. public access at Lowell Street to the Community Path… All 3 access connections shall be ADA-compliant.” (see Covenant between KSS and Curtatone, page 3, at (d)(iii); plus, other City Planning Board reports at http://www.somervillema.gov/departments/ospcd/max-pak )
below: Max’sGreen Construction site, December 12, 2011, showing development of a driveway plus a ramp and stairs connection to the western side of Lowell Street Bridge: