Many of Chapel Hill’s bus stops are over thirty years old, but the town is in the process of giving them an upgrade to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Chapel Hill Transit Director Brian Litchfield said the town has been assessing potential mobility challenges in partnership with Carrboro and UNC.
According to Chapel Hill's ADA transition plan, respondents to a June 2016 survey ranked bus stops, along with schools and commercial areas, among the most important locations to improve accessibility.
Litchfield said the town has a contract in place with an engineering firm to conduct assessments of bus stops and whether they're compliant with the ADA's requirements.
According to the Town of Chapel Hill Americans with Disabilities Act Transition Plan, the ADA prohibits state and local governments from discrimination against persons with disabilities. The act requires public agencies with more than 50 employees to make a transition plan detailing necessary steps to make facilities accessible for people with disabilities.
“We have six (stops) that we’re moving into construction improvements on, and another three where we’re waiting for right-of-way easement agreements to be in place before we can do further work,” Litchfield said.
The construction on the first nine stops will proceed throughout the spring and summer, but the timetable will ultimately depend on the bidding for construction contracts.
Litchfield said the town will begin work on another nine stops in a few weeks, starting with a survey, design work and eventual construction.
Improvements will vary based on the stop’s specific needs but could include adding ramps, retaining walls and new bus shelters with solar powered lighting.
For example, Litchfield said the West Franklin Street at University Baptist bus stop had slopes that became dangerously slippery on a rainy day, making it difficult for all riders, not just those with mobility challenges, to get on and off the buses. He said the stop was updated to meet ADA requirements and now includes a ramp, handrail and benches.
Chapel Hill Town Council member Michael Parker is the chairman of the Chapel Hill Public Transit Committee said the projects must be ADA compliant when the town uses federal grant money to make improvements.
Litchfield said bus stop updates are part of a broader push to enable residents to move more easily around Chapel Hill and Carrboro, including through sidewalk improvements and bike lanes.
The first nine assessments were mostly covered by a federal grant, but a portion of the funding was provided by Chapel Hill, Carrboro and the University. Another federal grant in conjunction with the Orange County Transit Plan will cover construction of improvements, Litchfield said.
Parker said the town is always looking for ways to improve transit in Chapel Hill, and public input is always welcome at the transit committee’s meetings.
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