Little-used Pennsylvania ADA ramps

Federal design standards have changed, so many little-used ADA sidewalk ramps in Berks County, Pa. and elsewhere will be torn up at great expense and replaced with new little-used ramps. “The borough [of Lyons, Pa.] has only a few sidewalks — with most yards running right to the street — so the ramps generally lead to areas that would seem difficult for wheelchairs to cross.” [Reading Eagle, h/t Tad DeHaven] More: Chris Fountain.


  • Got to be one of those shovel ready jobs Obama was talking about.

  • And if the design changes again, another $800m down the drain? What happens when those mandating spending have no accountability

  • It is certainly possible for the law to mandate the bankrupcy of a country as it attempts to pay the cost of regulations, laws, set asides, madates and entitlements. The Constitution is not a suicide pact and out elected officials and judges should always be aware of that.

  • At the time of passage of the ADA, there was little data on the actual numbers of wheel chair users in the USA. One of the most bandied about numbers was that there were less than one million persons permanently confined to wheelchairs in toto, and of that amount, about 50% were 100% confined to institutions, such as nursing homes, hospices, hospitals, etc. It is mind boggling to think of the billions upon billions spent to conform to ADA guidelines so as to accommodate less than 500,000 disabled persons.
    And unmentioned was the the many problems these curb ramps caused the visually impaired who rely on canes, as the new configuration removed the demarcation of curbs at intersections.
    Even today, they are raising a hue and cry over the chosen design of the new taxies for NYC and their “access.” By the time they’re finished, the $29,000 cost of the cab will at least double.

  • The cost will double? ADA accommodations will bankrupt the country? Final score:

    Rhetoric 27
    Accuracy 3

  • There are fiscal limits to what can be accomplished to help the disabled.
    Curb cut-outs have been a boondoggle from the outset, yet we through good money after bad.

    Similarly, how many legitimately disabled do you see utilizing the tens of handicapped parking spaces.

  • Rules are rules after all.

  • Rules can and should be constantly re-assessed to insure they continue to make practical sense.

    This idea that any disabled person should be able to independently negotiate any scenario is pie-in-the-sky thinking and certainly not in line with today’s fiscal realities.

  • Ron,
    Like so many on the internet, you misrepresent what I wrote and try to knock it down. This is called a “straw man” and it is a basic logical fallacy. What I wrote is simply true and there are governments all over the world that have folded due to excess spending to prove it.

    We can no longer afford to pay $800 million dollars for stuff we don’t need. Get used to it.

  • Right Tyree. Governments have folded. Now they have no government in Iceland. You are right. I enjoy your exactitude.

    Do you see the irony for calling someone out for creating a straw man while simultaneously creating a straw man? Or no?

  • The ADA is intended to provide disabled persons the opportunity to more full engage in everyday activities like going to a store, restaurant, or movie. Like the tree falling in the forest, the disabled who use the various aides that are provided with them in mind is so small as to make almost no noise. Wanting to be helpful is not being helpful in itself, and the do-goody desires of some does not justify the huge sums spent on ADA. That money could be used for the much appreciated home help aides. Old folks really appreciate the assistance they get that keeps them out of the nursing home.

  • likelihood of ramps on sidewalks in Lyons Pa being little used = ADA will cause US govt to collapse because of poor banking regulation in Iceland

    Makes sense to me.

  • Actually gumby, the equation is “mandate and laws to fix things that are not used or do not need fixing = uncontrollable spending and debt which leads to the bankruptcy of the government which leads to the collapse of the government which leads to the collapse of the nation.

    It is akin to the person who says “I must have money! I still have checks in my checkbook!”

  • Give it up, tyree. The plaintiff’s bar has spoken!

  • […] Walter Olson brings us a story about replacing little used ADA sidewalk ramps with new ones that will be as little used as the old ones are, all at taxpayer cost. Posted in Musings […]

  • ah, the slippery slope!

    So the proposal here is to …. what … ? Get rid of the legislation entirely? Amend it in some way? Clearly something must be done now! The fate of the nation is in this blog’s hands!

  • The biggest part of the problem is the small army of lawyers with digital levels running around suing the City if the ramp is 0.3% too steep to meet standards, or if the tactile tiles are crooked, or … Then, perfectly good ramps must be pulled out because they used the wrong profile of tactile surface, or to make modifications you can’t detect without instrumentation.

    The standards developed in ADA were intended to be guidelines, and were developed as guidelines, that is incomplete and approximate. The Courts have interpreted them as Engineering Standards with magically regulatory numbers. There is no budget or interest in deciding what the real standards actually should be.

    We have demolished HC ramps because they could not be put in to the required geometric standards. That helps the handicapped, how?

    I had two suggestions to improving the situation. They’re too practical and a little wisearsed so they haven’t a chance. The first would be to empanel a “jury” of twelve handicapped people. Run them over the ramps, and see if they can distinguish between the “good” ones and the “bad” ones.

    The second would be to take the judge awarding those damages, and put him out on the HC ramp crew for a week. He would have a good time. The crew would treat him like a prince, feed him lots of good Mexican food, and maybe he’d even learn to handle a bull float. Meanwhile, he’d learn how these things are made, and what makes a good vs. a bad one.

  • gumby 05.06.11 at 10:02 am

    ah, the slippery slope!

    I see you’ve used some of the ramps. 🙂

  • “Run them over the ramps […]”

    I got distracted by someone right after starting this sentence, and the image of 12 people in wheelchairs being hit by cars stuck in my head.

  • The number of wheelchair users is small, no. They are intent on blowing a great deal of money on fixes that area temporary. Could they then not use some of the money to upgrade those with inadequate chairs to better ones that can handle the grades. The chairs obviously won’t last forever, but residents wouldn’t have to put up with the orange cones along the street and the sounds of jackhammers reverberating throughout the neighborhood. An idea no less pointless than what they are doing now.

  • So the proposal here is to …. what … ?

    How about insuring that the regulation that is made is actually fixing a problem? In this instance, we have perfectly good and working ramps that are seldom used that are having to be redone because a regulation changed? Why not grandfather the ramps in so the next time the streets are repaved the ramps are brought up to the current regulations? Doesn’t that make more sense?

    We see the same thing with the DOT changing regulations on street signs. Instead of making it so cities and states would replace the signs as they wore out (every 5 to 10 years or so) they mandated that all signs be replaced within 3 years. Why? Because some study indicated that street signs with all caps are more visible than signs with caps and lower case letters.

    Gee, that is a pressing issue that needs to be fixed right now, isn’t it?

    We have to be smarter in the way we spend. That is all there is to it. A family or business will look at something and say “do I need to replace this now? Or is it more cost efficient to wait until later or until it dies?

    Why can’t we ask the government do the same thing? Why is it that the Congresscritters think that there is still plenty of money to throw around?

    They are like person who says “I can’t be broke, I still have checks in my checkbook!”

  • In the newspaper article referenced above, the ADA ramp that is being ripped out and replaced is one that was installed in recent new construction. The building permit required the infill home builder to install the ramp at the corner and sidewalks on their property, but at the edges of the property the sidewalks end, and adjacent property owners have not been required to build sidewalks.
    The issue with the ramp was that it did not have the change-in-surface-texture that would indicate to an unsighted person that they were at a crosswalk.
    Now, there are surface-retrofits that can add this texture, and there is certainly warrant to put-off the renovation and bringing to current standards until the sidewalk actually goes somewhere.
    OTOH, from a “keeping track of these things” perspective it probably makes sense for the State to fix all of the ones in its purview at once under one contract rather than doing them piecemeal after determining what criteria warrant a replacement.
    So the homeowner was required to build at her own expense a ramp and sidewalks that are of no immediate utility but might one day have utility if sidewalks are completed in the neighborhood. Now the state has come in and destroyed her work to replace it, with a new ramp that has no more utility than the one it replaced. I can see that it is frustrating, especially if it your own hard work that the state is destroying and replacing for no apparent gain.
    I’d also like to point out that wheelchair users are not the only ones who find utility in ADA compliant construction. There are many ambulatory people who nonetheless have difficulty with steps and curbs, and mothers with strollers, and deliverymen with loaded hand-trucks, and travelers pulling luggage to the bus stop. Indeed, the existing ramps in this story would not have been an issue had they not omitted the little bumps which add no utility to wheelchair users.

  • In the newspaper article referenced above, the ADA ramp that is being ripped out and replaced is one that was installed in recent new construction.

    Sorry Douglas2, that is not entirely correct.

    The story highlights the one ramp, but also notes that the state of Pennsylvania is replacing 117,000 perfectly good and previously legal ramps at the cost of $800 million dollars to the state. This is because of new regulations that were instituted and then left open to judicial interpretation.

    At $800 million to replace the ramps, that works out to bill that is roughly $63.47 for every person in the state of Pennsylvania. Taking that amount over the 307 million people in the US, that works out to roughly 19,484 million dollars to replace every ramp in the US. Of course, the math is fuzzy and there are some difficulties, but it illustrates the point.

    The country simple does not have another $19.5 billion dollars to replace perfectly good ramps because some Congresscritter decided to change a regulation because some group lobbied for the change.

    It would be one thing to replace the ramps as work is done on the adjoining streets, sewer lines, or whatever. It is another thing to demand that we replace perfectly good ramps on a whim. We no longer have the ability to spend on a whim. We have to be careful and cautious in spending like this.

    We can no longer afford it.

  • Douglas2 said: “There are many ambulatory people who nonetheless have difficulty with steps and curbs, and mothers with strollers, and deliverymen with loaded hand-trucks, and travelers pulling luggage to the bus stop. ”

    For 5 years I drove a Pepsi delivery truck, where the typical hand-truck load was 250 pounds. I wouldn’t have gone 5 feet out of my way to use one of the cuts, and in fact would probably avoid them. The most likely spot to dump the load is where it isn’t even side to side. I even had one customer where I took the 250 pound load up a flight of steps. Not really a problem when you do it for a living.