Upgrades to comply with federal disabilities act will cost $151 million, city council learns

The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night learned that the city has a lot of work to do — and a lot of money to spend — to ensure that Edmonds’ sidewalks, curb ramps and traffic signals are accessible to people with disabilities.

Transportation engineer Bertrand Haus told the council that the city in late 2016 hired a consultant to prepare an updated American with Disabilities (ADA) Transition Plan to address physical obstacles within the city’s right-of-way and whether the city is meeting ADA legal requirements. The last time the city updated its plan was 25 years ago, Haus said. A city building facilities plan regarding ADA access was completed in 2015 and the city’s parks department is scheduled to complete its plan in 2018-19, he added.

Development of the plan involved a five-member committee of citizens with disabilities, and the public was also asked to review and comment on it, Haus explained.

You can see the plan, completed by MIG out of Portland, Ore., here.

There are approximately 2,000 existing curb ramps in the city, along with 72 miles of sidewalks and 23 signals, and those were all reviewed, he said. The city was also required to develop a schedule for improving identified deficiencies and a funding strategy.

Charts were created to prioritize the projects needing the most urgent attention, so that those can be addressed first when  future funding is available.

Out of the city’s 2,000 curb ramps, only about 200 were identified as not being deficient, and those were part of recently completed new construction projects, such as the 238th Street Walkway.

The total cost to make all the improvements identified: $151.5 million. The city’s current total annual budget for these improvements is $220,000. “So if you do the math, it will take us about 500 years to reach this $150 million,” Haus said.

Haus also presented a list of funding strategies, including continued improvements through new road projects, adding  funding for repairs in future budgets, requiring developers to remove access barriers, and applying ADA-specific grant money.

The council agreed to place acceptance of the ADA plan on the consent agenda at the next council meeting, which will be Monday, Nov. 6. (There’s no meeting next week, Oct. 31, because it’s the fifth Tuesday of the month, and the following week’s meeting is a day early to avoid a conflict with Election Day Nov. 7.)

New Fire Chief Bruce Stedman speaks to the Edmonds City Council Tuesday.

Also during its business meeting, the council was introduced to Bruce Stedman, who was recently named as chief of the newly formed regional fire authority, the South Snohomish County Fire & Rescue (formerly Snohomish County Fire District 1). And they also received the first of several department director reports on Mayor Dave Earling’s proposed 2018 budget.

Tuesday night’s budget report was given by Public Works Director Phil Williams, who provided a high-level overview of his budget requests. Among them: $1.5 million to continue street paving projects and three new positions for the engineering department — mostly funded by already-approved utility rate increases or grants and designed to save on consultant costs.

As part of his department accomplishments, Williams mentioned the planned trackside warning system at the Dayton and Main Street railroad crossings, which would significantly reduce train horn noise along the waterfront. That project, which was first proposed in July 2015, got the green light to move forward during the Parks, Planning and Public Works Committee meeting that immediately followed the business meeting Tuesday night.

The project has been dependent on an agreement with the BNSF Railroad, and those negotiations have taken longer than expected. Since the majority of the system will be within BNSF right-of-way, easements also needed to be obtained.

In addition to most of the work completed by the contractor, BNSF will need to install certain items, such as advanced detection at both crossings. The purpose of these agreements is to provide for the installation, ownership, and maintenance of the Wayside Horn System at both crossings to the City of Edmonds. The total project cost is approximately $339,000.

Transportation engineer Bertrand Haus explained that detectors will be installed on the tracks that will activate the wayside horn “and that will replace the train horn.” A signal indicator will tell the train engineer that the wayside horn is functioning correctly, and that there is no need to blow the horn. The system will also tell the engineer if the signal isn’t operating properly, and that a train horn is needed, Haus said.

Phil Williams added that while the wayside horns located at both crossings are at the same decibels as train horns, the sound is very localized to the area nearby. “It’s just designed to alert the people near the tracks, instead of people all the way up to 9th Avenue,” Williams said.

Following the discussion, the committee agreed to place the proposed agreements for both the Dayton and Main Street crossings on the Nov. 6 consent agenda.

The Parks, Planning and Public Works Committee also discussed a a proposed professional services agreement with Parametrix for pre-design and permitting activities on the Edmonds Street Waterfront Connector Project, which involves a bridge for pedestrians and emergency vehicles connected to the waterfront. Councilmember Kristiana Johnson made it clear she did not agree with a scope of work element that called for two bridge designs, pushing instead for three designs to be created. Williams said that the current $995,000 budget wouldn’t accommodate a third design and after a long discussion staff agreed to clarify the  process and also to find out how much additional funding a third design would cost.

— By Teresa Wippel


27 Replies to “Upgrades to comply with federal disabilities act will cost $151 million, city council learns”

  1. Thanks Teresa for spending your evening at the City Council Meeting and keeping the citizens of Edmonds informed!


  2. Could one just add a plea to remember disable parking spots? With parking harder and harder to come by in Edmonds, those of us who find walking painful and/or difficult are at an even greater disadvantage; in my case, I not infrequently simply go home, unable to park near enough to the store or restaurant I want to visit.

    If more parking spots are not an option – we must at least remember that disabled spots are for the disabled, not for a quick run in to grab a coffee, or for the disabled person to sit in while someone else does the shopping. Courtesy and consideration, please!


    1. Mr.Brown, is it the number of disabled parking places or that they are being used by someone who is disabled or being used by someone who is just not following the law? The changes made earlier this year have increased the available stalls in total but did not address disabled stalls.


  3. Mr Haug, It’s a complex issue. From my point of view, we need more disabled places in the center of Edmonds, as it can be very hard to find one not being occupied. It is also a question of the spots being inappropriately used: I see clearly “abled” persons parking in them and then jogging into a store (“I’ll just be a moment”), and I also see them being “legally” abused – ie: with a disabled license plate or shield, but the disabled person waiting in the car while someone else does the shopping; not illegal, but stretching the purpose of the permit.

    So on the one hand, I believe we need more spaces (we need to remember the growing number of elderly in Edmonds); and while I don’t see how enforcement can be effected in most cases of abuse, I would like to remind people not to use the disabled spaces if it is not necessary.

    I believe it would also behoove the city to make sure the larger store (QFC, PCC, Etc.) have the mandated number or percentage of disabled spots, as it can be very hard indeed to find a space when one is needed.

    Thanks you for your question!


  4. I don’t know what can be done about the prevalent issuance of disabled passes. I live near the post office where I witness numerous people who work in nearby offices routinely parking all day in the 3-hour zone; they use their disabled pass to allow them to do this. I watch them leaving their vehicles and they are clearly not physically disabled.


    1. Not all disabilities are visible. People can have heart problems which limit their ability to walk far. People can have chronic pain that literally makes every step excruciating. If someone has a disabled parking placard, leave them alone. Your judgments about a stranger’s medical condition are not warranted or needed.


      1. Parking abuse happens all the time. Ron’s scrutiny is warranted and needed. Placards are loaned out to people without disabilities, too often, and people who really don’t need ease of access will still get the placards. Fly any airline and the terminals are turning into zoos where people are bringing pets on planes as Emotional Support Animals (fake service dogs). Disability is mother’s milk in a welfare state. The legitimate needs of people with disabilities are being co-opted by lazy and litigious people. Police can get in trouble for asking a seemingly able-bodied person if they are truly in need of handicapped access, but citizens are free to ask. Scrutiny of fakers ultimately helps those who really need help. The issue with the sidewalks mostly boils down to very rough transitions/ramps for chairs. A friend of mine has a terrible time dealing with the bumps at the transitions, but no issues with steeper grades and narrower passes. Just knock the bumps down. The ADA compliance check list for these ramps is a bit gold-plated. Who knows if more practical modifications are allowed or financially practical. A half-way solution might not of even been considered (TBD). Is this motivation for a new levy?


        1. Emotional support animals and service dogs are different things; they have different roles and different rules applied to then.

          The idea of people taking advantage of disability rights is overexagerated. There’s no evidence of widespread abuse like you’re suggesting. Your rhetoric is harmful to disabled people.


        2. Sorry Corey, it’s been studied, parking placard abuse is up. States and municipalities have reported significant abuse. Now that workforce participation rates are at a all time low, disability claims are abused too. My home state of Maine has rampant disability abuse and parking placard abuse. A simple google search show that Washington has also had to wrestle with it. Ease of access must be reserved for those who need it. Youre welcome that some of us actually advocate for folks who really need help.


  5. Could you clarify what you mean by “prevalent issuance of disabled passes”? Are you certain these people are not using someone else’s car or shield, or an expired one? Disabled passes are time-limited, and generally cover only a limited time. A disabled license plate indicates a more severe disability and is good for a much longer period.

    I would suggest calling the police if there is a clear infraction. Those of us who are disabled are being taken advantage of.


    1. I don’t have those answers. I just see the same people, month after month, who are clearly not disabled, parking the same vehicles with a sign in the windshield. Those passes can be valid for up to 5 years.


    2. As a disabled person whose disabilities are not clearly visible, I say please don’t call the police. Or leave nasty notes. The average person can’t diagnose whether someone they see in a parking lot is disabled. Mostly these situations just end up with a vulnerable person being harassed.


      1. I agree with Cory. Why would you call the police Nathaniel? In today’s age when no one is allowed to pass judgment on anyone, I find it strange you so easily suggest calling the police on someone that you don’t perceive as having a disability. This seems extremely presumptuous and could have a major impact on an innocent person.


        1. Mr. McCallen, after three years of not being able to shop, or limping in considerable pain across a parking lot, I can assure you that I do not “easily suggest” calling the police; you may also note that I said “clear infraction.”

          Perhaps you might suggest a practical way of dealing with misuse of our few disabled parking spaces? Misuse of them has has a “major impact” on innocent persons.


        2. Nathaniel, we live in a very crowded place so I doubt the reason for all the spots being filled is due to infractions. Also, Edmonds tends to have more retirement age which would also increase the usuage of the spots that are available. I just have an issue with assuming people are abusing the system and for someone to suggest a call to the police. I think the police have more important things to do in our commmnity then to run down every supposed “clear infraction” of parking violations.


        3. Mr McCallen – Please don’t twist my words: nowhere did I say that reason for “all the spots being filled is due to infractions,” nor did I even hint that the police needed to “run down every supposed ‘clear infraction.'” Moreover, I was responding to Mr Wambolt’s remarks that he had seen people repeatedly using the passes to ignore the 3-hour limit.


      2. Well said Corey. We should assume that if the placard or license plate says disabled it is valid. And perhaps those who aren’t disabled can show respect by just parking a bit further away and being grateful you can walk the extra block or from the far end of the parking lot. It makes sense not only for those with placards but for other folks who may need the closer spaces for whatever reason.


        1. We should be demanding more disabled parking, not encouraging perople to harass strangers about their disability status. Placing the blame on supposed abusers of disabled parking just takes the responsibility away from the people who we should really demand better access from: places of business, the city, etc.


        2. I should add that while I understand the pain Nathaniel has experienced, I have to believe he’s exaggerating how often he has to limp across a parking lot. I’ve had disaled parking for three years now, and I rarely am unable to find a disabled parking spot at the stores and restaurants I visit (though sometimes we have to drive around the parking lot a couple times) . Maybe Nathaniel is visiting different places?


  6. I wish My Edmonds News had published the name of the firm that prepared the ADA compliance study on streets, the firm’s scope of work, and details of its recommendations. Why were no studies for street street and sidewalk access prepared prior to 2016?

    Is it truly a surprise to the City of Edmonds in 2017 that they need to spend $151.5 million to provide access for people with disabilities? The ADA has been effective since 1992.


    1. Usually, lack of access isn’t dealt with unless a city is proactive about working with the ADA on identifying issues (as noted in the article, it’s been 25 years since Edmonds last did that), an individual contacts the ADA about an issue, or if someone sues due to lack of access. There aren’t a lot of people looking out for the disabled, so problems often are left for years.


  7. This is a scare tactic to raise taxes I think. I have worked on several ADA access projects in Seattle and know that these improvements are not required. They are recommended. My Mother was wheelchair bound in her last years and I have known many disabled persons so I am very aware and concerned about access. That being said, I agre that some improvements need to be made in Edmonds however, to throw a number like this out to the Public is irresponsible in my opinion. I totally agree about the parking space abuse. While some disabled people have no ambulatory issues, they can still use the spots which I believe is akin to parking in an ADA spot while not disabled. Tgey already have Red ‘temporary’ placards so it seems that they could create a specific color for ambulatory disabilities. I believe this is a much bigger conversation and all facts need to be divulged before numbers are thrown out to the Publc.


  8. We need sidewalks near all the schools so children can safely walk to school. Many streets near our schools have no sidewalks. Remedying this would enable establishing incentive programs to get children to ride bikes or walk to school. Along with this, the District needs to start High School and Middle School later in the day and start Elementary School sooner. We should also reduce or eliminate the Daylight Saving Time period so no child has to wake before daylight begins. This will improve learning, behavior, health, safety and reduce motor vehicle use.


  9. It is amazing how folks will follow the rabbit down the hole and get completely off topic.

    The provisioning of handicapped parking and enforcement of the laws associated with the allocated parking has nothing to with this story or topic the city is facing.

    Let’s talk about how it is the city budget can be so out of alignment with complying federal regulations.
    1) At a minimum the city is “non-compliant” with 1800 curb ramps. To become the compliant the city planner is estimating $11M to become compliant. Yet, the city is budgeting $50K per year to be compliant. By my math, the work will be completed on the 1800 curb ramps in 220 years.

    2) The city planner is estimating the city will need $140M to build 8,000 sidewalk barriers. (I don’t see anything stating these have to be built because we’re non-compliant) Yet, unless you count the $20K budgeted for minor sidewalk repair, there is zero dollars currently budgeted to address this newly found need. Let’s just give the planner the benefit of the doubt and say the $20K for minor sidewalk repair is for the same purpose, that means the 8,000 sidewalk barriers will be completed in 7,000 thousand years.

    3) The city planner is estimating city will need $500K for 160 pedestrian signals, with zero $ currently allocated for these pedestrian signals in the budget.

    Hmmm, is anyone alarmed at how nobody wants to talk about how we got in this position and what will be done to ensure we never get here again? There is no way this amount of money can be allocated without a vote of the citizens. There simply isn’t the revenue available today. Therefore, someone with the city better start thinking about accountability for the past and in the future if you expect the citizens to approve even more taxes. We can’t keep paying for the mistakes of the past without assurances from city leaders they will manage our money in a more productive manner for all.


    1. Sorry to reply to my own post. I was reading it and not only did I fat finger a time or two, but I forgot my math on the pedestrian signals. 160 pedestrian signals divided by $500K = $3,125 per signal. Does anyone truly think it will only cost the city $3,125 to build state of the art pedestrian signals that will have an operational life more than the next tax cycle?


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