Delaware County

Pennsylvania Ramps to Nowhere Lead to ADA Compliance But Not to Sidewalks

You may see them in your neighborhood. They are curb cutouts featuring red truncated domes. Each is designed to give people with disabilities access. But access to what? There are no sidewalks in some parts of Chester County.

Retired Temple professor Carol Marfisi who has cerebral palsy tells the NBC10 Investigators, the ramps do little to help her. Instead they hinder her independence.

Marfisi works with The Freedom Valley Disability Center. She had to be rolled down the side of the road to get at to a ramp to nowhere at Paoli Pike and Boot Road in East Goshen.

There is where she saw four other ramps to nowhere and no safe way to get to them.

“Would this be smart for anyone in a wheelchair to use this cut out? I asked. "I can't see any possible reason.” Marfisi replied.

The Americans with Disability Act mandates state and local governments install the ramps. But the ADA does not mandate putting in sidewalks. That decision is left up to the local municipalities if they chose to do so. That leaves people with disabilities with no place to go except into the streets.
And East Goshen Township Manager Rick Smith suggests that’s what those with disabilities should do get to and from the ramps.

“All that, the ADA requirement is that it provides the same opportunity for the disabled person as it does for … a person who walks,” said Smith.

Some like Freedom Valley Director Mike Burke said the ramps to nowhere are a waste of your taxpayer dollars.

PennDOT told the NBC 10 Investigators, they are mandated to put in 60,000 ramps to make intersections compliant with the ADA. So far, just more than 25,000 are complete.

The total cost of the project is more than $300 million. The average cost of a ramp is around $6,000.

East Goshen’s Township Manager says there are plans to install a multi-use walkway for bicyclist and pedestrians that the people with disabilities can also use that may connect to some of the ramps. But there are no plans to build sidewalks.

"Over the years the township developed and historically there was not a big demand for sidewalks," said Smith.

"Curbs cuts to nowhere and sidewalk to no cuts, we should be putting the two things together." Burke argued. He said every time he asked the township about building a sidewalk he would get the same answer. ”Well we’re working on that is the usually answer.”

East Goshen isn’t the only place we found ramps to nowhere. Just south of Route 1 and 352 in Middletown Township, Delaware County the ramps exist at the intersections at Elwyn Road, S Old Middle Road and Knowlton Road.

Middletown Township manager Bruce Clark said his township has plans to put in some walkways that will connect with some ramps to nowhere as part of a larger project. Clark also said the plan is still in the early stages and he could not say when it would be competed or how much it would cost.

"The idea of putting in sidewalks everywhere – you can’t address it everywhere immediately," said Clark. "You got to say, ‘where’s the main demand?’"

Both townships are in compliance with the ADA.

Marfisi told us she understands money is limited, but hopes municipalities will think about the disabled when they plan any project.

"We need to use it where it makes a difference," she said.

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