Guest column: Bend needs ADA improvements

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By Brian Douglass

The city of Bend has just completed a two-year, $3.7 million S. Third Street Safety Improvement Project to improve accessibility by building new sidewalks, curbs and Americans with Disabilities Act mandated curb ramps.

Advocates for Disabled Americans Inc. congratulates all the partners in their efforts to improve accessibility in our community. However, poor planning, improper oversight by city officials and a lack of “vision” is giving Bend yet another “black eye” when it comes to building infrastructure.

Advocates for Disabled Americans Inc. has walked the project and identified at least five significant safety concerns:

No lighting on either side of the Central Oregon Irrigation Canal, just south of Brosterhous Road.

No warning signs or barricades where the new sidewalks on the west side intersect with the canal. This can cause an unsuspecting pedestrian to fall into the canal.

Pedestrians — able-bodied and disabled — are forced off the sidewalk and down to a 24-inch bike lane, next to an active traffic lane where speeds 40 mph-plus on the west side of the canal bridge are common.

The 65-foot walk to connecting sidewalks both north and south require a 36-inch clearance for wheelchair users and safe travel. The situation on the east side of Third Street is equally bad and where the existing bike path narrows dramatically in some places. The city of Bend must install accessible pedestrian pathways — sidewalks — on both sides of the bridge crossing the canal. The estimated cost would be $94,638 plus local installation, a very small portion in a $3.7 million project.

A potential vendor for these bridges is Bailey Bridge Inc., located in South Payne, Alabama, or www.baileybridge.com. The actual recommended product is called the Pioneer Bridge. Its physical dimensions would be 65 feet in length and 6 feet wide for our local needs. These bridges were first designed by the British in World War II as portable and easy to assemble in the field to cross rivers and other obstacles, so that military equipment and manpower could easily overcome natural challenges on the battlefield. If this solution is not possible, the city needs to prohibit pedestrian traffic on both sides of this bridge.

New sidewalks south of the Taco Time restaurant on the west side of Third Street slope towards the back and an 8-12 inch drop to an asphalt parking lot awaits. Wrought iron barriers as those on the east side are required for pedestrian safety.

Two ADA mandated curb ramps installed on both the east and west side of Third Street lack any crosswalk striping or warning lights. They are truly “curb ramps to nowhere.”

If you are a business owner along SE Third Street between Wilson Avenue and Powers Road, these safety concerns are negatively affecting the foot traffic to your front door. If you are a local resident, business owner or neighborhood association member, please email the Bend City Council to demand immediate corrections. (bcampbell@bendoregon.gov; nboddie@bendoregon.gov; croats@bendoregon.gov; jlivingston@bendoregon.gov; bmoseley@bendoregon.gov; srussell@bendoregon.gov; babernethy@bendoregon.gov.

In my 28 years as a volunteer disability rights advocate in Bend, I have seen many egregious acts of “historical neglect” by the city. In 2014, I thought we had turned the corner with a much more engaged and motivated senior city staff.

This project clearly shows that we have a long way to go to achieve accessibility in thought, word and deed in the minds of my fellow citizens.

Please don’t forget your social media platforms to help get our message out to Bend residents. It is the only way to get immediate and positive action from the Bend City Council, which many residents opine, “they do not have big enough ears.”

— Brian Douglass is the chief advocate and director of development for Advocates for Disabled Americans Inc. and lives in Bend.

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