Seeking Accountability for Poor Curb-Ramp Installation on Park Presidio

park-presidio-curb_1.JPGPhoto: Susan Vaughan

In early April, Caltrans contractors replaced the sidewalk curb ramps along Park Presidio, but left without ensuring a smooth transition between the clean, new curb ramps and the road pavement.  Instead, they filled in the spaces between the curb ramps and the roads with bumpy, uneven black asphalt – or they left unfilled gaps. While a minor difference in grade may not appear to be a problem for most pedestrians, it is a major burden for visually and mobility impaired users trying to access bus stops along Park Presidio and its cross streets. At the least it's an unacceptably sloppy job, though the new curb ramps could be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“Accessible routes of travel are required from the new curb ramp through the crosswalk, even if the item is
still under construction," said John Paul Scott of the Mayor’s Office on Disability. "The asphalt should be suitably patched even if the milling and resurfacing of the street is to be done later.”

Park Presidio is a part of California State Route 1, but this particular project is a joint project between Caltrans and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Estimated to cost $18.4 million, its purpose is to upgrade signalization and curb ramps in order to improve traffic flow and enhance pedestrian safety from Lake Street past San Francisco State University.  It is scheduled for completion by the summer of 2010.

Adding insult to potential injury, Ghilotti Brothers, Inc., the sub-contractor hired by W. Bradley Electric, Inc. to complete that portion of the job, was supposed to only do alternate diagonal corners at each intersection.

“It didn’t happen that way,” said W. Bradley Electric Project Manager Brian Finley.  “There was scolding going on with the contractors.”

At the intersection of Fulton and Park Presidio, for example, Ghilotti Brothers did both the northeast and the northwest corners at the same time. This created the potential for collisions involving pedestrians and vehicles who were trying to cross the boulevard, as there is no crosswalk at the southern end of the intersection.

Finley said that the crumbly black asphalt – known as ‘cold patch’ or ‘cut back’ – is supposed to be temporary. When countdown signals and fresh cement are installed south of Golden Gate Park, the contractors will return to intersections north of the park to lay down ‘hot patch’ – or smoother, more permanent concrete transitions from the curb ramps to the roadways.

When the ‘hot patch’ will be installed is still not clear.

The San Francisco Department of Public Works inspected the intersections between Lake and Golden Gate Park, according to DPW spokesperson Christine Falvey.  "Our street and sidewalk inspectors are contacting Caltrans to restore the curb areas (even temporarily) to provide better access until they can come back and complete the work."

“Caltrans and the MTA are both talking about the possibility of additional corrective asphalt” at the intersections, added Finley, but if representatives of Caltrans and the MTA do not give him instructions soon, he said he'll  "be obligated to proceed.”  Once he receives word from Caltrans, contractors will be able to go back in and complete the curb ramp project.

According to Ghilotti Brothers Project Manager Mike Powers, the correction of the ramps, with hot patch, may happen on Thursday and Friday, June 19th and 20th.  Per the contract, the hot patch will extend 2 to 4 feet into the road pavement at most intersections, but at one corner at California and Park Presidio, it may extend 7 to 8 feet.

W. Bradley Electric and Ghilotti Brothers also disturbed SF Recreation and Park Department work along the pathways between Funston and Park Presidio and 14th Avenue and Park Presidio.  Sprinklers and plants were damaged or removed, according to nearby resident and Recreation and Parks volunteer Patty Phleger.

"We all want them to be accountable and for them to take care of their mistakes," said Phleger.