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Medford to fix ramps for disabled

Medford will spend up to $1 million at the beginning of next year to replace mostly out-of-compliance sidewalk ramps for the disabled, an expense that will take a big chunk out of dollars that normally would go to other road projects.

The city has asked for bids to install Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant ramps at 123 locations, with the work beginning Jan. 9, 2017, and ending April 14, 2017.

Last year, the city upgraded 186 ramps at a cost of about $650,000, which took a big bite out of the road-improvement budget that typically ranges from $1 million to $1.5 million annually.

"It comes out of the same budget," said Alex Georgevitch, deputy Public Works director. "Every dollar out of the budget for ramp repair means one less dollar for road repairs."

Public Works officials estimate the cost of the project will be $500,000 to $1 million.

A federal requirement forces the city to replace older ramps that aren’t compliant with the latest Americans with Disabilities Act rules. The requirement affects any street that is being repaved or is scheduled for some other major repairs.

Ramps with a yellow rubber surface are generally compliant with the new rules, but even those sometimes fall out of compliance because of the heavy clay soils in the city that expand and contract.

In some cases, ramps were installed incorrectly and need to be replaced, Georgevitch said.

Georgevitch said the issues with older ramps are mostly about maintaining the required slope. If the soil underneath moves, then the slope can change, he said.

"There are people out there who have complained," Georgevitch said. If there's a problem, the city checks it out and fixes it, he said.

The cost of upgrading sidewalk ramps into future years is difficult to predict because it depends on how many streets are paved in a given year.

The city learned about the ramp requirement in 2015 when the Federal Highway Administration came down to review how the city was complying with ADA requirements.

— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @reporterdm.