Credit: Source: PUBLIC WORKS

Who does the work?Most municipalities use contractors to install ADA-compliant curb ramps.

Credit: Photo: Jenni Spinner

The domes on these panels in downtown Arlington Heights, Ill., started peeling after one winter. After inspecting all the panels, the public works department recommended a coated metal product instead of ceramic coated with rubber.
Taking compliance to new heights

After struggling with its first try, a Chicago suburb gets curb ramps that work.

The Village of Arlington Heights, Ill., doesn't rely on a one-size-fits-all approach to designing and installing its Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant curb ramps. It has different designs for each, relying on the engineer and inspector in charge of that particular project to ensure that ADA requirements are met.

“Especially in our downtown, which has narrow sidewalks, we can't use a standard design,” says Jim Massarelli, P.E., director of engineering for the village.

Arlington Heights is a typical town northwest of Chicago. This suburban community of 76,000 people also has its typical sidewalk issues—it is working to become 100% ADA compliant.

The village has a mayor-appointed disabilities coordinator who works closely with the engineering and public works departments to help determine the best approach for curb ramp projects. And, says Massarelli, the disabilities commission is fortunate to have someone in a wheelchair who can give first-person feedback on specific projects.

The average cost of completing new ADA-compliant ramps ranges from $600 to $800 each. For the past 4 or 5 years, Arlington Heights specified red ceramic panels coated with a rubberized material. This product saw poor results: After the first winter, some of the truncated domes were sheared off, cause unknown.

The contractor and manufacturer glued new panels into place. This didn't work either, probably due to water seeping beneath the panels. The village is moving to a coated metal product that was tested and approved by the public works department. Installation falls on the higher end of the cost range, says Massarelli. Results on this new product weren't available at press time; stay tuned to see how well they work. — Amara Rozgus