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City in midst of installing sidewalk ramps across town

245 completed this past fiscal year to meet ADA compliance

Residents of Pleasanton can expect to see sidewalks ramps being replaced for the next few years as Pleasanton tries to be in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The city is replacing 245 sidewalks this fiscal year alone.

The upgrades need to be carried out by all cities across the country because ADA is a federal law enforced by the Department of Justice. According to the ADA website, the act "provides comprehensive civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities in the areas of employment, public accommodations, state and local government services and telecommunications."

The city receives no federal funding for the upgrades so the money used comes out of Pleasanton's General Fund and the gas tax, which is generally used for street paving. The budget for upgrading the ADA ramps in the 2008-09 fiscal year, which ended Tuesday, was $389,000 and is set at $450,000 for fiscal year 2009-10.

"Each year, we have a certain amount of money allocated to it," said Daniel Smith, the city's director of operation services.

Smith said 245 ramps were done in the 2008-09 fiscal year and 175-200 will be completed in this new fiscal year.

There is a big variance in the cost of updating a sidewalk. On the ramps that are closer to being in compliance, truncated domes--yellow bumps that serve as a warning to someone who is blind or in a wheelchair--are all that need to be added. In other instances, the whole sidewalk ramp needs to be redesigned.

"It's about $600 for the truncated domes," Smith said. "If more than a dome needs to be added and it requires reconstruction of the whole ramp, then it ranges from $1,500 to $4,000."

The Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines affect all cities equally. Bigger cities with bigger budgets need to commit more resources, but relative percentages of the budget used are about the same. Because the federal government knows resources are limited, there is no deadline for completion.

"There really is no due date for the federal compliances," Smith said. "All the law says is that you have to commit resources to making sure it gets done and you stick to the plan. But if you're not doing it, the Department of Justice can force you to do it."

Pleasanton tries to keep the disabled community involved in the decision making as much as possible so they know what is happening and have a chance to give input, Smith said. City staffers have been working with Community Resources for Independent Living (CRIL), a local organization that helps to represent the ADA community's needs, throughout the process. The city also has a grievance process so that when something is not in accordance with the ADA, it can be evaluated and repaired.

"If there's an emergency, well take care of it immediately," Smith said. "Next month, we'll meet with the disabled community and see which sidewalks they feel are the most important."

The city recently had a survey conducted by a consulting company to estimate how many sidewalks need to be upgraded in order to be in compliance with the act, and it will receive those numbers later this month.

"Areas with the highest traffic possible are done first, like areas around schools and public areas," Smith said. "There's probably a couple thousand more that need to be done. It will probably be a good six to eight years before they are completed."

Besides high costs, the city also has to deal with federal regulations that have been changed multiple times. The most recent changes came last year, when former President George Bush signed the American with Disabilities Act of 2008 into law, effective Jan. 1.

"It all has to do with the ADA," Smith said. "There are revisions to it all the time. One of challenges we face is to go out and upgrade something, and then they change the requirements again. Some [of the guidelines we are following are from the original act, and some are revisions."

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