A new federal requirement to study a municipality’s streets for compliance of the American Disabilities Act could be costly for cities such as Decatur.
The Federal Highway Administration and Alabama Department of Transportation are requiring local Metropolitan Planning Organizations to analyze the streets and intersections in their areas.
The Decatur City Council hired Goodwin, Mills, Cawood Inc., a Huntsville engineering and architectural firm, on Monday to conduct an analysis of about 500 intersections for ADA compliance. The analysis will cost close to $60,000.
Director of Development Wally Terry said the city will have to use the analysis to form a long-term transition plan to correct any ADA deficiencies, which likely would mean curb cuts and adding wheelchair ramps at most of the city’s intersections.
Failure to do the analysis and transition plan could threaten the city’s ability to receive federal funds on more than transportation grants, City Attorney Herman Marks said.
Allen Stover, city grant coordinator, said ADA analysis and transition plans soon will be required by all federal agencies for local governments that receive federal funds.
Terry said correcting ADA deficiencies for city roads can be scheduled in future budgets and done over time. Many of the corrective actions will be done as part of other projects.
For example, the city will spend $26,000 on 65 curb cuts, about $400 per cut, as part of the $500,000 Lee Street Northeast streetscape project, Terry said.
“Cost normally depends on the location, slope and if there are any drainage assets in the way,” Terry said. “However, a simple slope with no drainage or other issues is not too expensive per unit.”
A $400,000 state grant is paying for most of the Lee Street project. The city plans to use a portion of the projected sales tax revenues from the Cook Museum of Natural Science, scheduled to open in 2017, to pay for its grant match.
Mayor Don Kyle said he feels the federal mandate is unnecessary because Decatur “has been aggressive” in adopting updated International Building Codes for ADA compliance.
“A lot of this is being done out of fear,” Kyle said.
Councilman Charles Kirby asked if hiring an outside consultant to do the analysis is necessary, and Terry said the city doesn’t have the engineering staff to do it quickly enough to meet the federal timeline.
Kirby said he doesn’t have a problem with the federal government requiring the expensive ADA updates to city roads. He suggested creating the plan could help the city qualify for grants to pay for the improvements.
“It’s part of the process, and a lot of people say we don’t have enough handicapped access,” Kirby said.