Friday, June 20, 2014

Unsafe Routes to School

For the last several months, signs have been up all around the Yale Elementary neighborhood advertising street and sidewalk improvements being made as part of a Safe Routes to School program to enable and encourage children to walk and bike to school. Good intention.

I thought the city would be repairing sidewalks and perhaps installing curb-free sidewalk ramps at intersections. That some intersections that already had curb-free ramps were also being torn up was puzzling, but I thought that maybe they were adding those little round bumps to warn you of the approaching intersection. Still, why would they be tearing up the intersection for ten to fifteen feet? Dunno, but that turned out to be the least of the problems.

Houston Richardson, we have a problem. Someone from the city needs to come out quickly and look at the work being done (Mark Solomon, I'm looking at you). Someone needs to stop this before more work is done that will need to be redone. The program advertised as Safe Routes to School is taking already safe routes and turning them into accidents waiting to happen.

After the jump, one example of Unsafe Routes to School.

Sidewalk dropoff

This is at the corner of Sunny Meadow Ln and Meadowcove Dr. When the construction workers tore up the sidewalk and installed new ramps (in many cases there had already been ramps), the new ramps were lower than the old sidewalks. So, they poured new ramps from the old sidewalk to the new ramps. If it sounds crazy, it's because it is. In the example above, there's a drop-off of six inches in a run of nineteen inches to get the old and new sidewalks to connect. I'm no expert on the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, but I'm pretty sure a 1:3 grade exceeds it.

I stumbled just walking over such a "joint" at another intersection that had less of a grade than this. And I knew exactly what I was facing. Imagine trying to get a wheelchair up or down that. Or, imagine a child riding his bike to school and hitting that "joint" going up or down. Going up it's like a speed bump. Going down it's like Thelma and Louise. Nasty spills will be common.

Come on, Richardson. Take a look at this design and/or construction. Something ain't right. Let's get it fixed before we spend too much more money on a project that's just going to have to be redone. Hopefully before some kid has an accident on these Unsafe Routes to School.


Mark Steger said...

On Facebook, Dave Carter addressed my blog post:

"Jeez, we've installed several thousand new ramps and miles of repaired sidewalk over the past few years and he blogs about one location where the contractor needs to extend the grade further. The city inspector will review and address the issue."

If by "one location" he means almost all the work done in one whole neighborhood, then yes, that is what I blogged about.

The city did repair sidewalks in this neighborhood just a year or two ago. They did a good job then. Someone screwed up this time. I appreciate having the city inspector review and address this issue. I'll update when action is taken.

Mark Steger said...

Update June 25, 2014: Every neighbor I've talked to or heard from agrees that the work is unacceptable. One neighbor who complained to the city learned that a second contractor will be addressing the inadequacies within 1-2 weeks. Apparently, the work was always planned to be a two-step process. Step one was to replace the intersections. Step two was to smooth out the grade between the new intersections and the old sidewalks.

All of which suggests the city needlessly brought this on themselves by not sending a letter to residents before the work started explaining the whole project and especially the fact that the first phase was not the final phase. It could have saved a lot of ill will generated by the work so far.

I will update this blog post when the phase two work has been done.

Mark Steger said...

Update: June 26, 2014: Four of the worst intersections, including the one in the photo, are being worked on again. The older sidewalks that didn't line up with the new have been torn out and will be re-poured.

Mark Steger said...

Update: July 14, 2014: It looks like the city has completed the project. All the defective workmanship in the first phase has been corrected in the second phase. There's still one pile of dirt on the sidewalk by a vacant house. Maybe they'll come back for that, maybe they won't, but one way or another it'll get cleaned up, leaving a good finished project.