Costly curb construction

May 6, 2009 2:53:01 PM PDT
There are 117,000 sidewalk ramps that need to be rebuilt in the next 10 years throughout the state. "The cost of not giving people equal opportunity is huge. The number of people with disabilities who are denied access is a waste of human potential," Executive Director of Disabled in Action Bill Chrisner said.

Chrisner says access curbs are poorly built and impede disabled people from getting around the city. In 2007, the US Disctrict Court in Eerie agreed; it ruled the ramps did not comply with the Americans for Disabilities Act.

PennDOT has been ordered to fix them.

Crews have already updated ramps at Erie and Old York Roads.

They now are less steep and have truncated domes to help the visually impaired and to slow wheel chairs.

"If you are a person with disabilities, these ramps are extremely important to access sidewalks," Gene Blaum of PennDOT said.

At a time when the state is strapped for cash, it is hard to ignore the $820-million price tag.

Blaum says PennDOT is taking money from the stimulus package to help cover the costs, but the new upgrades can get complicated and may cut into other projects like resurfacing roads.

"if we have a certain amount of money where we think we can pay two miles, well, we're not going to be able to pay two miles, because part of that money is going to have to be used to rebuild the ramps along that stretch of the corridor, so we might not be able to do two miles, but maybe be able to do three-quarters of a mile, or one maybe a mile," Blaum said.

"When you have a major intersection you have to install traffic lights, which are expensive, but you have to do that to control traffic, well, you have to install curb ramps to give people equal access to the street," Chrisner said.

PennDOT says the standards of the ramps have changed over the years.

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