Archive for Tuesday, August 24, 1999

A BRICK WALK

August 24, 1999

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The city has done enough to accommodate Old West Lawrence's taste in sidewalks.

It's wonderful that the residents of Old West Lawrence take such an avid interest in the appearance of their neighborhood. Their pride in their area, no doubt, has helped it hold onto its quaint, historical character.

But there's a limit.

Even though the city has substantially increased the cost of federally required sidewalk ramps to address the neighborhood's aesthetic concerns, Old West Lawrence wants more. In fact, city officials were criticized by an OWL resident for not allowing the neighborhood to come up with its own design for the ramps.

The ramps, which will make the sidewalks wheelchair accessible, are being added to comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. Concrete ramps to meet the federal requirements cost a little less than $500 each. That's a lot of money when multiplied times the 100 Old West Lawrence locations where ramps are needed.

But it's not enough for neighborhood residents, who objected to the concrete structures. Despite the fact that the city had to undertake an expensive reconstruction of Mississippi Street after a brick street exposed at the neighbors' request deteriorated into a sunken mess, the neighborhood is pressing its desire to preserve brick streets and sidewalks. In response to that request, the city agreed to construct about half the ramps using a concrete border with inset bricks at a cost of almost $750 per ramp. The change added more about $10,700 to the $125,266 project.

That, however, still isn't enough for the OWL residents. At least some residents want brick and nothing but brick in the ramps. It's unclear exactly how much that would cost -- or how well such ramps would hold up over the years.

City officials declined to let OWL design its own ramps because federal regulations for the structures are very specific. They probably are specific to make sure that the ramps adequately serve the purpose for which they are being constructed: to allow wheelchair access to the sidewalks. It would do little good to build expensive, all-brick ramps if, in a few years, those ramps mirror many brick sidewalks and are so uneven that passage by a wheelchair would be impossible.

City officials already have gone the extra mile to try to accommodate Old West Lawrence's fascination with brick. They shouldn't trouble themselves further with the complaints now being voiced by some neighborhood residents.

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