Paths of least resistance
The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) has been using geographic information system (GIS) technology to assess sidewalks and ensure compliance with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As of August 2008, 54 percent of SHA’s 900 miles of sidewalks were compliant — an increase of 5 percent since the agency began sidewalk assessments in September 2006.
To begin the project, SHA hired six temporary staff members to collect data on sidewalks, ramps, driveway crossings, medians, bus stops and obstacles using hand-held computers by Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Trimble. Working in pairs, the data collectors surveyed all of the state’s sidewalks in eight months. Their data is managed in a central ESRI GIS database and shared among users through a Web-based portal.
The ADA portal includes maps and aerial imagery as well as links to a video log the SHA gathers once a year from crews that drive the state roadways. The video’s original purpose was to monitor pavement conditions and support decisions about resurfacing projects. Now, SHA links the video to coordinates in the ADA portal to display sidewalk conditions. The portal also pulls data from the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Consolidated Transportation Plan, so SHA can coordinate sidewalk reconstruction projects with capital improvement projects. Data on pedestrian volumes and accidents also is pulled into the GIS to help prioritize sidewalk projects. SHA is developing a public-facing version of the portal that will be accessible to those with disabilities.
SHA staff regularly meet with members of the disabled community to gain insights into their needs. They also visit each of Maryland’s 23 counties to hold public meetings, present the self-assessment project, explain the status of improvements and gather input.