VALPARAISO | A plan for bringing all facilities within the public rights of way into compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act was approved by the city's Board of Public Works and Safety on Wednesday.
The plan is in preparation for the expected approval by the federal Justice Department of the public right-of-way accessibility guidelines (PROWAG) as an amendment to the ADA. The PROWAG applies to curb ramps, sidewalks, crosswalks, intersections, bus stops, pedestrian signals and pathways.
Assistant City Planner Taylor Wegrzyn told the board the Federal Highway Administration asked the city to prepare the plan for bringing the facilities into ADA compliance and submit it to the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, which monitors the disbursal of federal funds in the area.
The plan covers what's already being done, what the city plans to do and how much it costs. Wegrzyn did a survey of all the facilities using satellite imagery, geographic information system data and personal surveys to determine where they comply and where they don't. The data will be updated as projects are completed.
"By using the PROWAG standards, the city is insuring all changes to facilities in the right of way exceed expectations," he said in the report.
A total of 2,418 curb ramps have been installed, although about half were classified as possibly not being in complete compliance with the standards. Further in-person surveys will determine whether they are. Another 959 sites have no curb ramps, and Wegrzyn ranked them according to priority based on nearness to government buildings, retail and employment centers.
"Many of the ramps that were identified as either missing or noncompliant are located in areas of the city where it is impractical, unfeasible or unforeseeable in the near future to update or install ADA compliant ramps," he reported.
Eventually, the city wants to install sidewalks along all city-controlled streets. The inventory found 153 miles of existing sidewalks and 127 miles where sidewalks are yet to be installed. All the city's 10 miles of pathways were found to be ADA compliant as to ramps and surfaces.
The city has 108 pedestrian signals at 26 intersections. According to the PROWAG standards, the buttons to activate the signals have to be between 15 and 48 inches high, but 12 were found to be higher than that. Sixty-one pedestrian signals at 15 intersections also have audible alerts.
Of the city's 941 intersections, 324 were found to be compliant with all the standards. Of the 355 crosswalks, 30 were found to be faded and in need of repainting. Only 55 of the 138 bus stops had compliant ramps.
Valparaiso has an agreement with the FHWA to install a minimum of 100 curb ramps a year, a number it exceeded for the past three years. Wegrzyn estimated a budget of $75,000 for sidewalk improvements, which the city also has exceeded. The exact amount for 2013 has not been set by the city.
A study of the city's ADA compliance at all its buildings, parks and other facilities has been completed and will be submitted to the board for approval soon. A similar compliance plan has to be adopted by the end of the year for the city to continue to be eligible for federal highway funds.