Work has commenced to make all sidewalks in downtown Opelika compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, city officials said.
The efforts are part of an initiative, or “long-term ADA self-evaluation/transition plan,” to make Opelika “the safest, accessible, and most business and family-friendly city in America by 2023,” according to Kevin Rice, the city’s ADA coordinator.
“As a part of this plan, all city sidewalks, buildings, programs and services must become ADA compliant,” Rice said. “We have started sidewalk work in the downtown area. This is from a maintenance standpoint, but more importantly from an ADA compliance standpoint. There are large sections of sidewalks that need maintenance from upheaval, cracks and other issues.
“Some of this damage is caused by tree roots, some is from improper construction and some from age and wear. At the same time many of our intersections are not ADA compliant. In some cases, this will involve fixing the grades around intersections.”
All sidewalks within the city will be focused on during the next 2-3 years to ensure that all reasonable efforts are made to give accessibility to everyone, Rice said. At present, the city has completed accessibility work on all sidewalks around the Opelika Sportsplex & Aquatics Center.
Last week, the city announced that crews have begun addressing the intersections of South 9th Street and Avenue B, as well as Avenue C and Geneva Street. Any anticipated road closures have yet to be announced.
“To prevent inconvenience to the citizens and visitors of Opelika, road closures will be minimalized to only days when required due to work being completed,” Rice said, adding that updates on any pending closures will be posted on the city’s website, www.opelika-al.gov.
Mobility for all
Mayor Gary Fuller said he is looking forward to seeing more progress as the city aims to reach its national goal by 2023.
The plan underwent development about a year ago, with Human Resources Director Lisa McLeod serving at the helm, Fuller said.
“Many of our intersections and sidewalks are not ADA compliant,” the mayor added. “There are large sections of sidewalks that that need maintenance from upheaval, cracks and other issues. Some of this damage is caused by tree roots, some is from improper construction and some from age and wear.”
The city also hired a tree expert – George Barker, president of Natural Resource Consulting – to evaluate every tree on city property and in the public right-of-way, Fuller said.
“We held public meetings to inform citizens of trees that may be removed,” the mayor said. “As a Tree City USA, we are dedicated to protecting the trees that are healthy and not causing an ADA issue. George will provide guidance on species and types of trees for different locations in relation to utilities, sunlight and other conditions.”
ADA compliance is essential for the city, as sidewalks serve thousands of Opelika’s citizens and visitors, Rice said.
“They provide mobility for those who cannot drive, recreation and tourism opportunities, and support better health outcomes,” Rice added. “It is important that our sidewalks are fully accessible, and free of any hazards, allowing citizens of all abilities to safely travel around the city.
“The city of Opelika looks forward to providing a safe environment for all citizens and visitors to enjoy.”