ADA sidewalk ramps first taken out, then replaced in San Marco

ADA sidewalk ramps first taken out, then replaced in San Marco
By April 24 a new ADA-compliant ramp had been installed at the corner of Largo and Arbor lane.

The Jacksonville Public Works Department discovered not everything the federal government demands makes sense when, in attempting to follow the letter of the law regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it removed and sodded over more than 30 sidewalk ramps in the San Marco, only to be forced to put them back again.

Jacksonville is under a “consent order” to make sidewalks in many areas of the city ADA accessible, said City Council President Lori Boyer. To do this, Public Works hired a contractor to remove the sidewalk ramps on perpendicular and parallel streets that have no receiving ramp directly across the street, and sod over the last 10 feet of sidewalk to the curb, she said during a Bicycle/Pedestrian Steering Committee meeting March 27 at the Ed Ball Building. Concerned the city was removing perfectly good sidewalk ramps, Boyer questioned the validity of the decision and sought advice from the committee on how to stop it.

On April 1, the sidewalk ramp at the corner of Largo and Arbor Lanes was removed and sodded over.

On April 1, the sidewalk ramp at the corner of Largo and Arbor Lanes was removed and sodded over.

“If there is a crossing, we will put in the landing area first, but if there isn’t, we don’t want anyone crossing there,” explained Nelson Caparas, chief city traffic engineer, during the meeting. “We are following what the ADA requirement says by removing that link. We don’t want to advocate allowing someone to cross there,” he said.

The city’s nervousness about following the exact letter of the law stems from an earlier incident in South Florida, said another meeting attendee. “There was a ramp to nowhere and someone in a wheelchair went out into a six-lane highway and was hit. FDOT (Florida Department of Transportation) was sued, so they know now not to do that any longer,” he said. “If you plan to build a sidewalk in the future, you better build one on the other side to accept the pedestrian as a landing spot.”

However, Boyer was still incredulous about it. “What we are doing in conjunction with this is where you had a previous sidewalk link that went down to the curb in the street and there is no continuation of the sidewalk to the next block, we are eliminating the sidewalk ramp and tearing it up,” she said. “To me it is so counterintuitive that we would take up the sidewalk we already have just because the next link is not there.”

Boyer said more than 30 sidewalk ramps had been removed in the San Marco area – several in her River Road neighborhood. “Lots of residents raised the alarm causing me to drive around and look at them,” Boyer said. “We’re trying really hard to modify everything to comply, but the problem is sometimes the decisions you make are not practical.”

Apparently, Boyer’s concerns were heard. According to City Spokesperson Tia Ford, on April 14 the city began restoring ADA-compliant ramps in the locations where formerly “substandard” ramps had been removed.

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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