THE SQUEAKY WHEEL- Watch your step! Snow may hide trip hazard

As part of a larger report on city facilities and infrastructure, at a recent City Council meeting Director of Public Works Judith Mueller noted the many tripping hazards on city pathways. Aging sidewalks and sections of pavement heaved up by tree roots make for treacherous going for pedestrians. Additional tripping hazards are created by new construction. 

One particularly troubling hazard is in the newly constructed pedestrian crosswalk at East Jefferson Street in Court Square. An 8.5-inch diameter utility access rises one inch above the brick surface. Current federal accessibility standards permit vertical changes of less than 0.25 inches. Greater changes qualify as tripping hazards. Pedestrians watching for approaching vehicles while crossing can easily miss seeing this hazard. Vision-impaired pedestrians are at significant risk. This is a big-toe buster for summer sandal-wearers but is a truly hidden danger with snow on the crosswalk.

Actions Taken: City engineer Tony Edwards and I inspected the site in September 2006 and observed that the access unit is clearly designed to be adjusted, but as currently installed is at its adjustment limit. Soil beneath the new brick surface has apparently compacted much more than anticipated.

What can be done? The unit could be shortened using a metal-cutting saw, cutting torch, or grinder to allow for easy immediate and future adjustment. This fix might take only a few minutes.

Anticipated action by the city: Edwards has not responded to several recent telephone and email requests for an update on fixing this hazard. I can only conclude that no action is scheduled.

The Path Forward: Until this hazard is fixed, look both ways and watch your step when using this crosswalk.

What have you seen that needs fixing? Email the Squeaky Wheel at the address above.