By Hillary Borrud
The city of Bend is halfway through the list of approximately 200 sidewalk curb ramps it plans to build this summer, in an ongoing effort to comply with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.
City crews rebuilt curb ramps on Northwest College Way earlier this week, where a Central Oregon Community College accessible campus route crosses the street. Bend Street Division Manager Hardy Hanson said he did not know whether the city or the college built the ramps that needed to be redone, but the city bears responsibility because its employees inspected and signed off on the work.
“At the time, we thought we were doing them right, and we weren’t,” Hanson said.
City infrastructure and other public facilities built since the Americans with Disabilities Act took effect must meet accessibility requirements. Approximately 5,000 curb ramps in Bend violated accessibility guidelines as of earlier this year, out of a total of more than 7,000 . The range of problems include incorrect slopes on the ramps and adjoining sidewalks and a lack of visible warnings, such as a yellow plastic strip the city installs on new ramps to inform visually impaired people they are at the edge of the street.
Bend is spending $500,000 annually on the work, which it is supposed to finish by early 2015 under a 2004 settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.
City officials have repeatedly said they expect to miss that deadline, and that the Justice Department has not contacted them about how it will handle the missed deadline. As of last year, the city had completed improvements to all curb ramps near government and medical buildings, according to a city document. Current priorities include areas of employment, training, social services and shopping, as well as public schools. The city also prioritized assisted and independent living facilities, Bend’s Community Center and Senior Center and restaurants.
Joe Viola, director of campus services for Central Oregon Community College, said the curb ramp improvements will make the accessible route through campus smoother.
“Kudos to the city,” Viola said at a meeting of the Central Oregon Coalition for Access on Tuesday. “We appreciate that at the college, to make our accessible routes all continuous.”
Other streets where the city worked on curb ramps so far this season include Reed Market Road, Second Street, Eighth Street, Newport Avenue, Colorado Avenue, Scott Street, Purcell Boulevard, Simpson Avenue, Powers Road and Revere Avenue, Hanson said.
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