The other day I was visiting a community in Illinois for the day and met a local person who was very excited about the new playground equipment being installed in his neighborhood. He encouraged me to check it out since he said it was the first time the community had upgraded the site since his children, who are now adults, had been little. So I took a walk to the park only to find unfortunately we are still not constructing ADA compliant facilities decades after laws and guidance have been in place to assist us in these efforts.
I’ve included the photos I took of the site showing the designer seems to have intended to install two accessible points off the shared use path running adjacent to the playground (the skidsteer is parked on the path). As you can see in the photos, one ramp, in the photo directly above and below, has side slopes down to the ramp which are not compliant with the 10:1 slope. The other is a ramp, shown in the very first photo, which has side slopes leading down from the ramp at an angle which are much steeper than the 10:1 ratio. This ramp also seems to have a much steeper running slope than 12:1 slope at the very end for the last 6 to 12 inches. Each ramp as constructed has areas where a wheelchair could tip due to the steep slope.
I first thought perhaps the designer was worried putting in the required 10:1 slopes (see image below showing standard) could cause the ramp to be moved over and conflict with a swingset. So I asked myself, how would I have designed it, and how would I fix this now? I like asking this when I see something I think is noncompliant because sometimes achieving compliance can be a real challenge – sometimes there is not always an easy solution. Understanding how others have approached design challenges helps me become a better designer.
However, at this particular site, I believe there is a much better design that would be a lot safer and provide even more accessibility. Once I realized this, I wondered why the original designer had not just done it that way in the first place since it seemed a more obvious solution than what had been chosen. And while some of the completed work would have to rebuilt to incorporate my redesign, it would definitely be worth fixing it now before the project is finished if this will be in place for another 20+ years.
I was going to describe what I came up with, but rather than explain what I would have designed, I was curious, what would be your fix?
Last month, Austroads, the association of Australasian road transport and traffic agencies, released a Pedestrian Facility Selection Tool. According to their website, "the Pedestrian Facility Selection Tool is designed to help Australian and New Zealand practitioners select the most appropriate type of pedestrian crossing based on walkability, safety and economic outcomes." They have produced a User Guide and will be offering more information about the tool at a webinar scheduled for Tuesday, March 10, 2015. The webinar has already filled up, but the site indicates it will be recorded and offered on the website at a later date for viewing.
The tool can be used to assess the following types of pedestrian facilities:
or combinations of these facilities.
According to the User Guide, the tool can also be used to assess the following:
"Puffin signals: the default signal type assessed by the tool, in which all pedestrian green phases are associated with pedestrians actually crossing
Wombat crossing (Australia): treat as Zebra with platform and adjust posted/approach speed if required"
You can try out the tool by clicking this link: Pedestrian Facility Selection Tool Link, then reading the necessary guidance and inputs on the page, reading the disclaimer, and clicking the link at the bottom of the page to indicate your acceptance of their terms and to access the tool. Below are screenshots showing the top and bottom sections of the tool.
For each option, "the tool then evaluates pedestrian and vehicle delay, safe sight distances, pedestrian level of service and, using default economic parameters developed for each Australian jurisdiction and New Zealand, calculates a benefit cost ratio." And if you are interested in learning more about the research undertaken to support and develop this tool, you can check out this report: Development of the Australasian Pedestrian Selection Tool.
Major cities like Edmonton have developed guidelines like these to help develop roadways and transportation corridors to better serve users of all modes of travel. Sites like Complete Streets for Canada and National Complete Streets Coalition provide resources for agencies interested in developing and implementing their own Complete Streets policies and guidelines. The map below from the National Complete Streets Coalition illustrates how many cities in the United States have adopted some level of Complete Streets initiative.
Today was the day the liner was delivered for our culvert lining project. The placement of it seemed to go well. The contractor will finish grouting the annular space tomorrow. A resident did stop by to tell us we didn't know what we were doing, and it would never work, and he would sue everyone when water backed up into his home. Of course, he had no information to base his opinion on other than the new pipe is of a smaller diameter than the existing one. So the other staff members tried to explain the hydraulics and design information to give him an idea of why a smaller pipe can carry the same or more water, but he still didn't believe anyone. So he contacted the elected officials to express his concern. I let the engineer who designed the culvert project know about the complaint.
It's unfortunate, but this seems to happen so much where a group of professionals put in a lot of time designing a project, and then someone stops by and tells everyone they are all wrong, and it will never work. And they never seem to have any facts or information to base their opinion on.
I have to admit I have seen some poor designs in general executed over the past 30 years, however, none related to culvert sizing. And even those poor designs did not cause failures or damage – they were just not good designs and usually ended up impacting our operations and increasing our costs. So the city had to do more work to make the final product better and improve efficiency and cut costs. But I can't remember where there was property damage that could be attributed to bad design – maybe poor construction but not poor design.
Of course, the bottom line in a something like this is that anyone building or buying a home next to a creek increases their risk of having water entering their home during a storm. Particularly when openings like doors or windows are installed that allow for a way for water to enter the home. Culverts and other stormwater facilities are only designed to carry a certain storm intensity. If a storm occurs that is greater than the design storm, the culvert or other stormwater infrastructure will not convey all the water and could allow water to back up and enter nearby structures. So for our situation, whether we leave the old culvert or install a new one with equal or greater capacity, there will always be a risk that a storm occurs that will not be handled by the culvert and water could back up into homes – that is the risk of owning property next to a body of water.
We also met with a vendor who sells traffic control products. He did a great job showing us some alternatives for the intersection where we are trying to draw attention to a pedestrian crossing. One product we are particularly interested in is a sign and light called the "Enhancer." Here is the link to a site showing the product: http://www.statewidetrafficsafety.com/enhancer.asp.
We did manage to get our staff meeting in today. And I continued on trying to check our budget line items.