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Lack of Curb Ramps in Just Two Spots Ruins Otherwise Accessible Tower Grove Ave

July 2, 2015 Accessibility, Featured, South City, Walkability 15 Comments

One of the most frustrating things about using a wheelchair in the public right-of-way (ROW) is how many routes are 99% accessible — the 1% inaccessible part can be a bigger obstacle than you might think. Today’s example shows the lack of thought put into making an entire corridor accessible — it’s done piecemeal.

Saturday morning my husband and I took the bus to the Missouri Botanical Gardens, we spent a few hours there. Afterwards we decided to have lunch at OLIO  — just a short walk (map). Turning North on the East side of Tower Grove Ave I encountered a problem after crossing De Tonty St.

Tower Grove & De Tonty St
Tower Grove @ De Tonty St

The curb was lower to the right, but not enough that I could get up onto the sidewalk. Thankfully the bike lane exists, I used that on high speed to reach the next street as quickly as possible. At Lafayette Ave I looked back South and the same problem exists on this end!

Tower Grove Ave @ Lafayette Ave., that's my husband in the background catching up
Tower Grove Ave @ Lafayette Ave., that’s my husband in the background catching up

Good thing I couldn’t get onto the sidewalk at the other end — I couldn’t have gotten off on this end!

I crossed Lafayette Ave and got back on the sidewalk without any issues. I had no other problems after lunch, catching our bus a couple of blocks further North. So why hasn’t this small section been updated in the 25 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law? Fragmentation is my best guess. This sidewalk runs under I-44, so MoDOT is likely responsible instead of the city.

Another possibility is gerrymandering, both ends of this sidewalk are in the 19th ward. Yes…seriously!

This area is in the very bottom left area pf the 2011 ward boundaries.
This area is in the very bottom left area pf the 2011 ward boundaries. Click image to see a larger ward map.

To be fair, most likely this was in a different ward(s) before 2011. Still, the 19th Ward is probably the worst in the city for curb ramps.

My experiences have shown over and over again that nobody is concerned about making corridors accessible from end to end. A person examining Tower Grove Ave would’ve caught this issue. Maybe someone has but they can’t get funding from the 19th ward budget to correct it? Maybe MoDOT is aware but it too busy avoiding tolling I-70 to worry about two ramps.

The West side of Tower Grove is better — only one end is missing a ramp, at Lafayette.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "15 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    I’m going to call bull excrement on this being a Ward problem. This is an attitude issue (among all residents) and a case of disability advocates choosing to be too passive in the city. It’s also a money issue, one directly related to St. Louis’ declining population. This curb and sidewalk were most likely constructed, TO EXISTING STANDARDS, when the freeway was constructed, well before the ADA took effect. Whether it’s a city or MODoT responsibility, to make changes now, it’s still a government responsibility, and government is very good at putting the screws on private property owners to comply with their random rules and regulations, yet remaining very lax on making other government entities comply!

    The real issue is that there is no defined advocate for pedestrian issues within city government, at any level. Many other cities, of St. Louis’ size, employ Pedestrian and/or Bicycle coordinators to push these issues: http://www.simplyhired.com/k-bicycle-pedestrian-coordinator-jobs.html . Many other cities have vocal disability advocates who aren’t afraid to take drastic, photo-op actions to push their issues*. Right now, St. Louis is way more focused on how to fund a new football stadium than in funding any level of improved pedestrian access. Missing links, like these, can (and should) be funded on an annual basis (and they’re not, in St. Louis). Dedicating “just” $1 million per year would allow 1,000 – 2,000 individual corners to be rebuilt, citywide, every year, but it simply isn’t happening. And no, it shouldn’t be left up to individual aldermen – this is a citywide issue and needs to be attacked citywide. There are no political photo ops, so there needs to be one citywide advocate charged with fixing the problem. Relying on the over-committed Streets Department to make this any sort of priority is simply wishful thinking. But hey, keep griping here – at this rate, a dozen corners just might get fixed this year!


    • guest says:

      Thanks for raising the issue, Steve, and I tend to agree with JZ here. This town must have upwards of 30,000 curbed intersection corners. So the process of retrofitting them with accessibility ramps will take years. So my first questions would be simple ones. Like the 50/40 sidewalk program, is there a priority list/waiting list/schedule for finishing this work? Do we known which curbs will get ramps this year and the next? Is there a system for how this happens?

      Secondly, and not so simple, and clearly departing from any sort of ward system, what about creating “connecting corridors”? Our neighborhoods are connected by corridors. Tower Grove Avenue and Shaw Boulevard are connecting corridors between multiple neighborhoods. Are they being done first? Are they being prioritized? Who’s in charge of making these decisions?

      • As I said in my reply to JZ, the city should have an “ADA Transition Plan” to identify areas where it isn’t in compliance. It doesn’t have a plan, nor any organized way to submit items to build a database.

        And yes, we need to be thinking about corridors from many perspectives: zoning, desired character, transit, walkability. and ADA compliance.

        For decades we’ve focused on individual properties/places, without consideration for the big corridor picture — the sum of the parts.

    • RyleyinSTL says:

      “Many other cities, of St. Louis’ size, employ Pedestrian and/or Bicycle coordinators to push these issues”

      Interestingly STL just approved a budget with funding for that position this week.

    • The ADA requires governments to identify where it isn’t in compliance and outline how & when the items will be addressed. This is called the “ADA Transition Plan.” You can see Clayton’s here: http://www.claytonmo.gov/Government/Departments/Public_Works/ADA_Transition_Plan.htm

      St. Louis has said it has been working on a transition plan for years, but there isn’t even a web page for updates. Nothing. https://www.stlouis-mo.gov/government/departments/human-services/disabled-office/

      Like everything else, we take a piecemeal approach rather than a more cohesive approach. The ramps across the streets leading to these two spots were done 10-20 years ago. Any person with common sense would know if you put a ramp on one side pf a street a ramp is needed on the other.

      We need city hall to work smarter!

      • guest says:

        Can we have faith that our growing crop of young progressive aldermen will push an agenda like this?

        Meanwhile, in the vomit of old tradition, did people see the absolutely disgusting report about the fire department pension clerk cashing in millions of pension/deferred compensation benefits at the expense of city taxpayers?

        Then there’s old school Alderman Larry Arnowitz praising the woman and her “service” (note the countless hours she spent “working from home”) with a proclamation at the Board of Aldermen – ol’ Arnowitz in line himself for a nice city-funded double pension…

        Wanna know where your money to build new accessibility improvements is going?

        See above.

        • gmichaud says:

          I saw that article in the Post. It is simply unbelievable, over a half million dollars given the a city employee in a severance package. She oversaw the firefighters pension. Plus she gets a 50 grand a year pension.
          Why am I paying taxes?
          How many other “legal” deals are out there this bad or worse?
          Yep, this is why those curbs cuts aren’t there, and why the city in general is such a mess other than a few attractions and neighborhoods.
          I am just floored at the gall of elected officials allowing this to occur. The job of the public is to not make public officials life as luxurious as possible.
          The Sharon Carpenter flap was bad enough about the free car and double dipping of salary and pension, but the bald faced corruption that is allowed to continue “because that’s what we agreed to” is complete bullshit.
          Corruption is corruption, in what world does this woman deserve over a half million dollars of public money in a severance package?
          So Steve, the needs of the people must wait, building a better city must wait, we must bow down to the government and make sure they are well taken care of first.

          And I got an increase on my property tax bill this year, gee, I wonder why that is?

          • JZ71 says:

            Don’t blame the employee, blame the system(s) that were put in place, that the employees are taking advantage of! If they offered this level of compensation where you (or I) work, you’d be taking advantage of it, you wouldn’t be walking away from a “generous” check, of any sort!

            The real issue is a) that these programs were put in place, in the first place, and b) that they (continue to?) fly “under the radar” for decades at a time. I also question the assumption that none of these provisions can ever be touched, modified or downgraded. The city is a business – when revenues go down, cuts need to be made, across the board. No program and no employee (or their paycheck) should be “untouchable”. Life ain’t fair, and there are many, many people in the private sector that have seen their benefits reduced. There’s absolutely no reason why employees in the public sector should be treated any differently.

          • guest says:

            The benefits have been cut. This woman was “grandfathered in”. But the real issue is why was this allowed to be done in the first place. The answer is that St. Louis has a tradition of patronage for life, insider deals, heavy pensions, etc. We are living with that legacy. The woman should have voluntarily returned some of that money. Or her face should be plastered on billboards as the face of old St. Louis that needs an enema.

          • JZ71 says:

            The real “issue” is that, 25 years ago, many companies, in the private sector, provided true pensions, and the city, rightfully, had to offer similar benefits. These days, few companies still offer traditional pensions, while many entities in the public sector continue to do so. Blame a shift in strong unions, if you will, from the private sector to the public, but both life and the world that we all live in has changed, quite a bit, over the past quarter century. And the big difference is that private sector pensions were funded out of profits, while public sector ones were (and continue to be), at least partially, are funded out of tax revenues – taxes paid by people seeing their own incomes stagnate or decline, while public-sector eployees are seeing both pay increases AND continued generous retirement benfits! Follow the money – THAT’S why there’s controversy!

          • gmichaud says:

            You are wrong, this type of deal is not available to 99.9 percent of Americans, union or otherwise. It is merely an insider deal. Legal because they pass the laws too. That this is allowed to continue is complete and total bullshit. One has to suppose there are many more of these payoffs around in St Louis City government

            You were right the first time, it should be stopped: now. It is no more than fraud and corruption.
            In the Greek crisis “Greek governments — not the current, much maligned Syriza, but decades of its predecessors — treated the state like a teat from which clients and friends of electoral victors might suck” (http://www.interfluidity.com/v2/5965.html).

            That is what the political system of America has degenerated into. A deformed version of Greece.
            And yes this directly impacts the curb cuts on Tower Grove Ave. The focus for government officials is feathering their nest, not building a better city.

          • JZ71 says:

            Before you start pontificating, read what I said – a large portion of “the 99.9 percent” USED TO receive pensions – now they’re only offered 401K’s, if they’re offered anything. The ONLY employees seeing generous pensions, these days, are primarily in the public sector. And most public sector managers are not feeling the same global competition pressures as managers in the private sector, so the pensions continue. I don’t think that it’s “right”, but I don’t have great ways to change the dynamics – one has to look no further many local fire protection districts, where most successfully-ELECTED board members are supported by union efforts, and, in turn, generous union compensation packages – the foxes are guarding the hen houses!

          • guest says:

            A whole article could be written exposing the generous compensation packages of city workers. From health care, to pension, to deferred compensation, to vacation days, early retirement, graduated pensions, multiple pensions, etc. Why do you think there’s so much resentment directed at government workers from us private sector, working stiff schlubs?

          • gmichaud says:

            Pontificating, is that the word of the week or something?

            It is especially hilarious coming from you, the Darth Vader of the message boards. If anything positive is mentioned or suggested, you jump in to shoot it down with your usual hackneyed points saying in effect that St. Louis fails and will always fail. Talk about pontificating the negative all the time.

            Yes you are wrong, I saw what you said, to quote, ” 25 years ago, many companies, in the private sector, provided true pensions, and the city, rightfully, had to offer similar benefits.”

            Bullshit, this half million dollar city government give away is not the norm. It is a product of corruption. It should be removed from any other city benefits. And if they don’t like it, let them get another job with as generous pension benefits.
            There are plenty of talented people in St. Louis that could replace anyone in city hall, and more than likely do a better job


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