City Required to Seek State’s Review Of ADA Sidewalk Ramp Construction

June 23, 2015
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In August of 2014, the City of Boston began construction of a series of new disability access ramps on Beacon Street in the Beacon Hill Historic District, replacing historic brick sidewalks and existing brick access ramps with new ramps made of poured cement and installing plastic tactile warning panels on the new ramps.

The use of these cement and plastic materials was twice rejected by the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission because the commission found that these materials were inappropriate and out of character for use in the historic neighborhood.

The Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA) fully supports new ramp construction but favors the use of materials such as wire-cut brick for the access ramps and tactile warning panels made from architectural concrete, as these materials are fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Beacon Hill Historic District Architectural Guidelines, and have been used elsewhere in the City.

Prior to commencing construction, the City did not follow the statutorily established procedures to obtain approval of the project by either the state’s Secretary of Energy and Environment or the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission. As a result of the City’s action, on August 12, 2014, the Beacon Hill Civic Association and 12 individual residents of Beacon Hill filed a lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court to prevent the City from moving forward with their plan without first following the required procedures.  On June 8, 2015, the Superior Court issued an order, finding that the City had violated state law in failing to seek the review and approval from the state’s Secretary of Energy and Environment with respect to the City’s access ramp construction project in the Beacon Hill Historic District.  The Court also ordered the City to immediately stop all construction of the access ramps on Beacon Hill until the City sought a review of its project with the Secretary (or received a certification from the Secretary that such a review was not necessary).

Since filing of its lawsuit, the Beacon Hill Civic Association has remained committed to the public process and to improving accessibility for all persons with disabilities on Beacon Hill.

“It is our hope that this latest ruling from the Court will prompt City officials to work with us to develop a better accessibility plan for all of the neighborhood’s residents and visitors that complies both with the ADA and with the Beacon Hill Historic District Architectural Guidelines,” said BHCA Executive Director Marylee Halpin.

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