Officials in Springfield, Massachusetts plan to take steps to improve access to the city’s riverfront. The city recently settled a complaint that was filed almost 18 months ago with the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board , the agency that oversees access for the disabled to public places.
Access to the 3.7 mile long Connecticut River Walk and Bikeway in Springfield is supposed to be available by way of an elevator that leads to a pedestrian bridge across a set of active railroad tracks. But since the structure was built in 2002, design flaws have caused the elevator to breakdown frequently.
Sheila McElwaine, a city resident and long time riverwalk advocate grew frustrated watching people in wheelchairs and parents with children in strollers unable to get to the paved walk-way.
She filed the complaint with the state.
The elevator tower rises some 30 feet from the ground and when people step out at the top there is a view of the city’s skyline to the east and the Connecticut River to the west.
The elevator isn’t the only issue. McElwaine contends the pedestrian bridge and spiral ramp on the other side of the railroad tracks that leads down to the river-walk are not properly maintained.
Facing the possibility of a $1,000 per day fine for violating accessibility requirements, the city filed a plan with the state on May 1st. The Architectural Access Board notified the city in writing on June 26 that the plan was acceptable.
The elevator will be removed and the structure replaced with an improved system of ramps. The cost of the project is estimated at $600,000, which the city says is less expensive than applying a permanent fix to the elevator.
The project won’t be finished until December 2015, so temporary access during construction will be a re-paved grade level rail road crossing, which according to McElwaine creates another problem.
Why not just provide permanent access at a railroad crossing that has proper safety features?
The elevator and bridge are located near the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.