Clark County is assessing strategies to fix more than 7,000 sidewalk deficiencies to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Public Works officials met with the county council in March to discuss the need for a more comprehensive ADA transition plan.
“In general, we have to provide equal access to all people,” said Rob Klug, engineering division manager, at a March 11 work session. “That’s a very amazing concept when you think of all the needs of all the people that are out there and accommodating everyone.
“It’s very challenging to do, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.”
Klug added, “but also, it’s the right thing to do.”
The ADA characterizes construction and design of sidewalks as discriminatory if they are inaccessible to those with disabilities. Regulations have been revised in the 30 years since the law was enacted, but many municipalities have been ordered by courts to expedite their transitions.
Sacramento, Calif., for instance, was ordered to spend 20 percent of its transportation fund over 30 years to address its sidewalks. In Clark County, such a mandate would cost about $15 million each year, Klug said.
The county has recently fixed sidewalks at a rate of 150 deficiencies per year. At that rate it would take almost 50 years to fix all 7,000 deficiencies.
Klug said that courts typically are more lenient toward governments that have a specific plan to make sidewalks compliant with the ADA.
“We want to be in a situation where we have a good, defensible program,” Klug said. “They can always tell us to do more, but at least if we’re telling them what we’re doing and what the program is, we have a good way to be able to move forward.”
In 2018 and 2019, the county conducted a visual inspection of sidewalks in unincorporated urban areas. Inspectors found that the most striking issues were sidewalks that lacked curbs or had deficient curbs. Other issues included sidewalks heaved by tree roots, landscaping and other obstacles blocking access, and sidewalks that end abruptly.
“This is not an insignificant task,” Klug said. “It’s very needed, but it’s something that’s going to be very expensive for us to do.”
Adequate sidewalk ramps can cost between $7,000 and $12,000 to install.
Some of these sidewalk problems were exacerbated by past county practices, Klug said. While speaking with county councilors, he displayed photos of trees planted within the last 20 years that now have roots cracking surfaces.
The county is looking to form a steering committee that will include representatives from human rights organizations, transportation agencies and groups that advocate for people with disabilities. As the plan grows, officials have discussed hosting open houses and additional work sessions.
Lilly Longshore, the county’s ADA coordinator, who uses a wheelchair, described an obstacle commonly encountered by her son, who is blind and uses a cane to sweep while walking in public. While the cane is helpful, it’s not difficult to miss certain objects. She recalled him returning home one day with a bloody face.
“These are not issues for able-bodied people. There’s a whole variety of reasons that this stuff is so important,” Longshore said.
County Public Works Director Ahmad Qayoumi said the ADA plan will be a “living document.”
“Our goal is to build a trust in the community that we have their interest in mind and we have a program that addresses them,” Ahmad said. “We’re going to all constantly review it.”