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PROWAG and Pedestrian Route & Crosswalk Safety: What You Need to Know

Ensuring adequate pedestrian route and crosswalk safety requires following applicable local, state, and federal guidelines.  Of particular importance are the mandates laid out in the July 26, 2011 document entitled Proposed Accessibility Guidelines for Pedestrian Facilities in the Public Right of Way.  These measures were created to clarify and define the measures laid out in the Americans with Disabilities Accessibility Guidelines of 2010.  Together these measures prescribe a number of new standards intended to ensure and broaden access to crosswalks, bicycle lanes, sidewalks, walking paths, and recreational trails by those with a wide spectrum of physical and mental challenges.  This includes individuals who use mobility aids such as wheelchairs and canes as well as the visually impaired and those with cognitive processing deficits.

 

The Public Rights of Way Accessibility Guidelines (PROWAG) have been reviewed by the US Department of Justice and the Federal Highway Administration.  Both agencies recommend following the document’s guidelines as a list of “best practices” towards developing public infrastructure.  PROWAG is aimed towards local public entities that are in the process of making facilities and infrastructure under their jurisdiction more accessible.  It specifies steps that should be taken when doing so is technically feasible.  Potential exemptions to the definition of technical feasibility include the following:

  • Right-of-way considerations, i.e., when the existing right-of-way arrangements would have to be significantly altered.
  • When currently existing underground structures cannot be readily moved.
  • When nearby developed facilities cannot be readily moved or relocated.
  • Drainage issues, e.g., if the changes would negatively affect local drainage.
  •  When substantial existing terrain will not permit the alterations.
  • When existing historic or natural features would have to be altered in a significant way.
  • When existing street grades would make accessibility alterations technically or financially prohibitive.

In cases where conditions such as the ones above prohibit the adoption of PROWAG guidelines, the responsible agency should prepare a document detailing the relevant factors.  This document should specify the geographical areas where the prohibitive conditions exist and the nature of those conditions.  While exceptions are allowed because of technical infeasibility, future alterations to the site may remove these exemptions from the act.

PROWAG and Crosswalk Safety

PROWAG seeks to enhance pedestrian access without impeding measures to maintain existing crosswalk safety and viability.  As such, routine maintenance tasks are exempt from its standards.  Examples of such tasks include the following:

  • Painting, cleaning, or otherwise maintaining pavement markings.
  •  Sealing sidewalk or joint cracks.
  • Applying anti-corrosion sealants to concrete surfaces.
  • Filling potholes or other indentations.

While such tasks do not fall under the purview of PROWAG, neither are they eligible for federal funding.  There are potential exceptions to funding eligibility, but a detailed discussion of these exemptions is beyond the scope of this article.

PROWAG and New Pedestrian Access Route Construction

The following is a summary of standards that should be met by newly constructed routes:

  • Walking surfaces must be stable and firm.  In general, they should be paved, although the guidelines allow some exceptions to this requirement for certain shared-use paths.
  • A walking surface without a bevel should have no more than a maximum grade of ¼ inch.  Where there is a bevel, a level change up to ½ inch is permitted.
  • When possible, route designers should avoid using grates.  If grates must be used, then the widest openings should be perpendicular to the direction of travel.  Grate openings should be spaced so that no object wider than ½ inch can pass through them.
  • For standard residential sidewalks, a running slope of no more than 5% is acceptable.
  • Sidewalks should be a minimum of 4 feet in width; however, 5-foot sidewalks are encouraged.

PROWAG Guidelines for Crosswalk Construction

Several measures are intended to promote greater crosswalk safety.  These include the following:

  • Crosswalks that traverse an intersection with stop or yield signs, including those with a temporary stop sign, should have a maximum 2% street grade.
  • Crosswalks at locations where vehicles can travel without stopping or slowing should have a maximum grade of 5%.  This includes signalized intersections.
  • Where the crosswalk runs across the middle of a city block, the crossing may match the grade of the existing street.

Conclusion

PROWAG includes several strictures intended to enhance crosswalk safety.  Following these guidelines will help to ensure that all pedestrians may safely enjoy publicly provided access routes without injury.  Full details about the act may be found at this site.