City To Jettison Plastic Tactile Pads on ADA Ramps in Favor of Cast-Iron

The city plans to jettison the use of plastic tactile pads in the installation of ADA-compliant sidewalk ramps in favor of cast-iron pads, which are expected to provide more durability and last longer, especially during the winter months.

“The plastic tactile pads were not standing up to the task, mostly because small streets in Boston, like those on Beacon Hill, have corners that tend to experience trucks driving over them, and in tight corners, plastic didn’t stand up to what has transpired,” said John Vozzella, the city’s Director of Construction Management and Chief Engineer for Public Works, who oversees the construction of all ADA-compliant ramps citywide in this role.

The city also just wrapped up the second year of a pilot, said Vozzella, which aims to remove snow from street corners to free or clear up the ADA-compliant ramps in certain “high-traffic intersections,” including those on Beacon Hill.

In the future, if the city gets a 3-1-1 request to replace an existing pad, a cast-iron one would be used, added Vozzella.

Beginning in January of this year, any new tactile pads installed in the city were to be cast-iron instead of plastic as well, said Vozzella, but the existing plastic ones will remain in place until their “life cycle” has expired, at which time, they will be replaced with cast-iron pads.

Boston, like many other cities and towns, had originally used plastic tactile-pads in installing ADA-accessible ramps. Yellow pads were used throughout the city, except in the historic districts, where red pads were used instead.

Jettisoning plastic tactile-pads in favor of cast-iron ones had been the subject of internal discussions within the city for a while before the decision was made last fall, said Vozzella. The city then began working on the concept over the winter in time for a roll-out at the beginning of this year.

“We’re just trying to make the handicap ramps in the city better,” said Vozzella.

From a visual perspective, however, nothing much will change as far as residents are concerned.

“Residents are not really going to notice the change [because the tactile pads will remain the same colors, regardless of the materials],” said Vozzella. “It’s just a better product that will us a longer life cycle. Winter will be the true test to see how much better [the pads] stand up to cleaning sidewalks and salting.”

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