MDT: Extra sidewalk work needed in First Street project


A new wrinkle about sidewalks in the planned rebuilding of First Street may cause some additional work for the Montana Department of Transportation. But Mick Johnson, MDT's Great Falls District administrator, said it shouldn't affect the duration of the project or increase problems in accessing businesses.

"What we've discovered is we have some approaches where we have to do approach work," he said in an interview Wednesday, adding that if the department has to start tearing out sidewalks it is a major change in the scope of the project.

MDT plans to start work on rebuilding First Street, as U.S. Highway 2 is known as it passes through Havre, in 2006. Most of the street in its current form was built in the early 1950s, and it has not had major work since 1979.

Johnson told local officials during a quarterly meeting Wednesday that MDT found out this week about the sidewalk requirement.

He said in the interview that a recent court ruling on the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that slopes on sidewalks do not exceed 2 percent. That can require major work if a curb cut creates a dip in a sidewalk in the middle of the block, requiring that the sidewalk be rebuild on both sides of the curb cut to meet the slope requirement.

Johnson said MDT has identified 110 locations in the project that need work under the ADA requirement.

MDT originally planned to only repair sidewalks and curbs that were damaged, which would have reduced the need to negotiate right of way agreements with property owners, he said. Now, once the situation is analyzed, the department will have to start negotiating for right of way where necessary.

He said Morrison-Maierle Inc., the consultant for the project, is reviewing the approaches and MDT will go over the issue with the consultant and its legal staff and decide what needs to be done to them.

There is enough gray area in the law that some approaches may not need to be adjusted to a 2 percent slope, he said. A 3 percent or 4 percent slope may be enough in some cases. That would reduce the amount of sidewalk needing adjustment, Johnson said.

He said the cost is estimated at at least $1,000 for each curb cut. approach.

Working on the slope of the of American Indians'' obtain ''millions of dollars'' in financial assistance, Rosette said.

curb cuts involves fixing the slope on either side of the approach, as well as possibly reconstructing the entrance to the parking lots to prevent bumps or drops, he said.

Drainage from parking lots can also be an issue, he said, especially if the parking lot is lower than the street. That could cause water to drain into the lot instead of out of it unless work is done to prevent it.

Johnson said work on the sidewalks will be incorporated into plans for the construction before it begins, and shouldn't add to the length of construction.

He said the reconstruction project will impact access to businesses, but the department will work to minimize problems.

While it works on the sidewalks, MDT will work on only one side of a curb cut at a time, Johnson said. If a business has more than one approach, the department will only work on one approach at a time, he said.


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