City responds to ADA ramp saga in Portland Heights

On Tuesday, BikePortland reported about the third attempt to build a new ADA ramp at the corner of SW Spring and 16th Streets, July 2022. (Photo credits: Southwest Hills Residential League)
The next day that recently built ramp was demolished.

The ADA ramp at SW Spring and 16th Streets was torn down Wednesday and will be rebuilt a fourth time. We profiled this corner the day before as an example of ongoing construction problems with new ADA ramp requirements triggered by the Bureau of Environmental Service’s (BES) Goose Hollow Sewer Repair Project.

In addition to the Spring Street ramp (above), the newly built ramp at the corner of SW Montgomery Dr and Roswell Ave was also demolished this week.

Newly completed ramp at the corner of SW Montgomery Drive and Roswell Avenue, July 12, 2022. (Photo credit: Lisa Caballero/BikePortland)
Corner of SW Montgomery Drive and Roswell Ave on July 20th. (Photo credit: Lisa Caballero/BikePortland)

BikePortland reached out to BES for help in understanding why these builds have been so problematic. Aaron Abrams, the Community Outreach Program Manager at BES responded this morning:

Thanks for your article about the ADA ramp at SW 16th and Spring… Work at this location has proved to be challenging for the City and the contractor. The varying slopes at this corner have led to some struggles in meeting ADA specifications.

Ultimately, completing work at this location is the contractor’s responsibility; however, the City is working closely with the contractor to make sure the ramps meet ADA specifications according to PBOT standards… The contractor is required to meet design specifications that comply with federal requirements for the ramps. BES will only be paying the contractor for finished work that passes inspection. We will not be paying for attempts that don’t meet standards. Ultimately, BES ratepayers will only pay for a product that meets federal requirements and has been approved by the City. We understand how this work has disrupted that location and are confident that as we work with the contractor going forward, work will be completed successfully to restore that corner.

Yesterday I happened by the Roswell ramp pictured above while crews were completing the form for the new concrete pour. A PBOT employee was present as the group checked the slopes of each element of the form. There was a surveying tripod across the street. Clearly it was exacting work.

I also noticed at both the Roswell Avenue and Spring Street locations that the initial design of a single ramp on the diagonal had changed in subsequent builds to separate ramps for each street, in other words, two ramps per corner. A Directive from the City Engineer addresses the one versus two ramp design issue:

The City’s preference is to build two single curb ramps at a corner, rather than one diagonal ramp. However, FHWA provides for a variety of curb ramp types and configurations. Constructing one diagonal curb ramp at a corner instead of two single ramps at a corner constitutes a variance from the City’s criteria and requires approval of the PBOT ADA Technical Advisor.

Hopefully next week’s builds will be a wrap.

The ODOT Files: Caving to pressure, a bridge sidewalk in Grants Pass will be three inches wider

A wheelchair user tries to squeeze through the pinch point on the Caveman Bridge.
(Screengrab from a video made for HASL Center for Independent Living.)

The ODOT Files is a collection of stories that illustrate how the Oregon Department of Transportation prioritizes auto and trucks users at the expense of everyone — and everything — else.

The Oregon Deparment of Transportation is spending $5.3 million to update and make seismic retrofits to the historic Caveman Bridge in Grants Pass. The project goal is to bring the bridge back to is “Depression era beauty” by repairing cracks, broken concrete, exposed rebar, and delamination of the deck. But for people who use the bridge sidewalk — especially those who use wheelchairs and other vehicles — there’s nothing beautiful about narrow pinch points.

And there was nothing in the plans to widen them until the agency’s hand was forced.

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Chris Billman is the only Oregonian with a disabled parking decal for his bicycle

It’s not a bike, it’s a personal mobility device.
(Photos: Chris Billman)

61-year-old Forest Grove resident Chris Billman got a new lease on life when he discovered cycling.

He was born with scoliosis and suffers from a litany of degenerative issues including spinal stenosis and liver disease. He needs a cane to walk, and when he does, his legs can go numb.

But put his feet on pedals and everything changes.

Billman started riding years ago by putting upright “chopper” handlebars on a Schwinn 10-speed — a fine set-up for cruising around the neighborhood. Then in 2015 he invested in a recumbent and everything changed. “I was off and flying!” he told me during a phone call earlier this week in the voice of someone decades younger.

“They wanted to give me drugs, but the bicycle is better than opiates!”
— Chris Billman

“When I get on the bike I’m bent over like a pretzel,” he said. “But after I get on it my back is straight. If I can do that twice a week I’m in good shape. They wanted to give me drugs, but the bicycle is better than opiates!”

In fact they’re not just bicycles, they’re his personal mobility devices as defined by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. Billman is currently the only Oregon resident with a disabled permit decal for his bicycle.

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