Trouble for wheelchairs on some of Highway 24’s new handicapped ramps

       Wheelchair ramps were a late addition to the Westside Highway 24 overlay project by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) in recent months… and in some cases it shows.
       Of the eight new ramps at the 21st and 26th street intersections, two lead to unpaved areas, two go to older bridges that higher than the sidewalks beyond them, and one could land a wheelchair in a ditch.
       The situation appears to be the result of two agencies (CDOT and the City of Colorado Springs) not communicating, as well as a city policy in which only private property owners build sidewalks, not the city itself.
       Alan Endsley, project supervisor for CDOT, said that to be in compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the ramps were a late design revision to the agency's roughly $4 million overlay job between Eighth Street and Ridge Road/High Street.
       The extra cost for the ramps was The extra cost for the ramps was $20,000, he said.
       In defense of the work, he said the ramps “definitely improve access for handicapped people” - an additional feature is rubber pads to help blind people with canes - and will gain in value when the city or private entities eventually step in to finish the connections.
       He agreed that the most serious access problem is at the southwest corner of Highway 24 and 26th Street, where a wheelchair rolling up the ramp at too great a speed risks sliding off the other side, where there is a drainage ditch. Even if that mishap is averted, anyone on wheels who attains the ramp has nowhere to go except back to the street, because the channel to the drainage ditch runs between it and an unpaved city sidewalk in front of a restaurant.
       According to Endsley, CDOT's project designers did not specify anything beyond the need for a ramp at that corner. “We couldn't come up with a solution to fix the doggone thing,” he said. “It's kind of haphazard. The whole intersection needs to be redone.”
       Such a redo is likely to be a part of Westside Highway 24 upgrade by CDOT sometime in the next 10 years, Endsley said. The first public meetings to develop an Environmental Assessment (EA) for the work are planned to begin around the first of the year.
       One of the places where a ramp leads to an unpaved area will change in the months ahead, when a sidewalk gets added along 21st Street for the Angler's Covey fishing store being built at the northeast corner of 21st and Highway 24. However, even then a northbound wheelchair could not travel farther than the Fountain Creek bridge - at least without assistance - because the bridge has no sidewalk on that side of the street.
       The other ramp to an unpaved area is on the southwest corner of 21st Street, next to Van Briggle Pottery.
       Wheelchair users also encounter problems on the northwest and northeast sides of 26th Street. CDOT's new concrete sidewalks slope neatly to the Fountain Creek bridge's south side, but the sidewalk drops nearly 4 inches on the north side.
       Asked about the project, Gary Haynes, city engineering division manager, said he was unaware CDOT ramps had been constructed. But he said this communication gap was irrelevant regarding the ramps leading to unpaved areas because “the city doesn't build sidewalks.”
       The adjacent property owners are under no pressure to build sidewalks, either. Typically, the city does not require cement sidewalks in older areas that don't have them unless the property owners there are planning some kind of significant change to their parcels.
       Haynes said it might be possible for the city to fix the drop-off problems on the Fountain Creek bridge over 26th Street. He said he would have a crew look at the situation in the near future when doing previously planned repair work on the nearby bridge over Fountain Creek at 25th Street and Naegele Road.

Westside Pioneer Article