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AAB #11 241 Somerville, MA:latest route around our rights


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Update: the variance was denied.

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AAB #11 241 Somerville, MA:latest route around our rights

  1. 1. February 16, 2012To: Thomas Hopkins, Director, and members, MA Architectural Access BoardRe: AAB Docket #V11-241, submitted 12/2/11. Public Hearing on 2/27/12.Petitioner: City of Somerville Office of Strategic Planning & Community Development,Transportation & InfrastructureLocation: Pedestrian Connection between Lowell Street Bridge and Community Path ExtensionDear Chairman Lang and Architectural Access Board Members,The Community Access Project and the Boston Center for Independent Living have examined thisVariance application submitted by the City of Somerville, which requests the AAB to facilitate theCity in constructing a stairs-only pedestrian link between the west side of the upper Lowell StreetBridge to the Community Path Extension below the bridge.We request that the MA AAB please Deny this Variance on the basis that:1. This proposed extra set of stairs is not required, nor necessary, to overcome any costing orstructural infeasibility issues at this location. There is already a stairway (with ramp) beingconstructed on the west side of Lowell Street- less than 200 feet from the proposed inaccessiblestairway.2. It will be of significant benefit to persons with disabilities to have the use of all points ofentry, public rights of ways and community benefits generated by these State-funded pedestrianlinks between the lower Community Path Extension and the upper future Lowell Street MBTAstation. It will be of significant detriment to people who cannot use stairs to be blatantly denieduse of any public pedestrian links between the Community Path and the Lowell Street MBTAstation.3. The future Lowell Street MBTA station will be located on the west side of Lowell Street. Theplans and costing estimates submitted in this Variance do not indicate whether the necessarycrosswalks and curb cuts to connect the east and west sides of Lowell Street have yet beenincluded in the design. It appears that the City is requesting to waste $109K on a redundant setof stairs; yet, the design for continuously accessible pedestrian rights of ways on either sides ofthe Bridge, and connecting both sides of the Bridge, is not yet in the plans.4. Irregardless of a State waiver, the publicly-funded inaccessible stairs will still be subject toFederal legal challenges.5. Finally, this Variance Application simply doesnt make sense. Here are 5 examples:a. The Variance states, in response to question 5 (p. 3 of 6): "This stair is in support of the accessible public route that will be the primary accessible way through the MaxwellsGreen development from the Community Path to Lowell Street on the west side of the Lowell Street bridge."Since the stairs-only proposition will not offer any accessibility, how will the stairs "support" theaccessible public route? Page 1 of 3
  2. 2. b. The Variance states, under question 6 (p. 3 of 6): "A second ramp immediately adjacent to the proposed stairs would be redundant and cost prohibitive."Since there is already an accessible route, including stairs, being constructed through theMaxwells Green development on the west side of the Lowell Street Bridge and less than 200 feetaway from the proposed stairs (also on the west side)- how can the Applicants claim that a rampwould be redundant without acknowledging how redundant these stairs (estimated cost: $109K)would be?3. The Variance states, on the Additional Sheet for question 7 (page 6 of 6): "The Maxwells Green development (currently under construction) is required by a legal convenent with the City and by additional funding provided by the state to construct a public accessible pedestrian route of travel from the future Community Path to the Lowell Street Bridge. This is the primary connection from the Path to Lowell Street and eventually the Lowell Street Green Line stop. The petitioner considers this connection the accessible route for the western side of the Lowell Street Bridge."Since the Covenant1 includes a promise to provide three (3) public pedestrian/bicycle accessroutes which "shall be ADA-compliant," - not just one-, what gives the City the entitlement to"consider" one public route, to the exclusion of the other two, as being the "primaryconnection?"4. The Variance states, on the Additional Sheet for question 7 (page 6 of 6): "As a secondary point of access to the Lowell Street Bridge, a stairway is being proposed at the corner of the future Community Path and the west side of the Lowell Street Bridge. As is required by MassDOT"s review (as a stipulation of the funding) both the MBTA and MassDOT reviewed 25% plans of the project. Both agencies found the proposed stairway with no proposed ramp immediately adjacent raised accessibility concerns; however, a waiver from MAAB would satisfy their concerns..."Since both the MassDOT and the MBTA have a multitude of Federal plus State legalrequirements, to fulfill, including: o TIP requirements, which state "All projects for new construction that provide pedestrian facilities must incorporate accessible pedestrian features to the extent technically feasible, without regard to cost. The development process should ensure accessibility requirements are incorporated in the project." see o Complete Streets and 2006 MassDOT Project Development & Design Guide, Draft o Public Rights-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines (P.R.O.W.A.G.) of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and o State Architectural Access Board (AAB) regulations.1 In January 2007, Curtatone and the developers signed a covenant in which the Developers promise to provide three public pedestrian/bicycle access routes which include "iii. public accessat Lowell Street to the Community Path... All 3 access connections shall be ADA-compliant." (seeCovenant between KSS and Curtatone, page 3, at (d)(iii); plus, other City Planning Boardreports at ) Page 2 of 3
  3. 3. ... how can the City claim that a waiver from the MAAB will satisfy the Federal (civil rights aswell as) architectural accessibility requirements of either MassDOT or the MBTA?5. The Variance states, on the Additional Sheet for question 7 (page 6 of 6): "Finally, given that the state has already provided $380,000 in public money to create the public pedestrian connection through Maxwells Green, the cost of buileding a second ramp (estimated at $337,600) seems redundant and an inappropriate use of public monies."How can the City of Somerville justify the use of 109K of public funding just to provide anexclusionary, inaccessible second staircase, less than 200 feet away from another staircase on thewest side of Lowell Street, as being an appropriate use of public funds?Please deny this Variance application.Thank you,Sincerely,Eileen Feldman, Director, Community Access ProjectThomas Gilbert, Plaintiff, MBTA settlement and Member, Community Access ProjectKaren Schneiderman, Senior Advocate, Boston Center for Independent Living Page 3 of 3