Tipsy sidewalks flunk ADA test

MOUNT DESERT — Some of the 2.6 miles of new sidewalks in three Mount Desert villages fail to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) slope standards, and the town wants them fixed.

According to public works director Tony Smith, the ADA allows for a cross slope – the grade from one edge of the sidewalk to the edge that abuts the curb – of no more than 2 percent.

“It is the accepted norm when constructing public sidewalks,” Mr. Smith said last week in a memo to town manager Durlin Lunt.

Mr. Smith said the maximum slope of 2 percent was among the specifications of the contracts that were signed by the two general contractors for the sidewalk projects.

Voters here in 2011 approved a $1.5 million bond issue for replacing crumbling sidewalks. In May 2012, the board of selectmen awarded Peasley & O’Halloran of Ellsworth the contract to build 7,700 feet of sidewalks in Northeast Harbor and Seal Harbor for $745,747. John Goodwin Jr. Construction of Southwest Harbor was awarded the contract for 7,500 feet of sidewalks in Somesville for $587,481.

Mr. Smith noted that the maximum slope of 2 percent is not currently a legal requirement under the ADA but, rather, a “recommended best practice.” He said the U.S. Department of Justice is working on language to make the 2 percent slope the legal maximum.

“If we accept ownership of the sidewalks with a cross slope greater than 2 percent, we accept the liability that comes with them for lawsuits filed against us…should someone claim to have been inconvenienced, hurt or otherwise negatively impacted…,” Mr. Smith said in his memo to Mr. Lunt.

A slope of 2 percent is a drop of 1.2 inches across a five-foot-wide sidewalk.

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Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]