MoDOT begins work to improve Cassville's sidewalks
The state agency voices approval for handling of historic sidewalks
MoDOT and Branco, the contractor hired by the state transportation agency to complete a substantial sidewalk project making all sidewalks within their jurisdiction ADA compliant, recently began constructing new sidewalks along Main Street, near the Cassville school campus.
Ryan Dingman, a MoDOT inspector on site, said they were trying to finish up a section of sidewalk along Main Street next to the campus before school starts next week, where historic sidewalks bearing the names of past graduates were recently removed, to preserve the school's history, by local volunteer contractors.
The state agency was tasked by the U.S. Department of Justice with making all sidewalks in the state ADA compliant, so that anyone in a wheelchair, walking with a cane or having any other type of disability could travel with ease on the sidewalks.
While some might think making the sidewalks wider would make them more accessible and ADA compliant, there's more to it than that, Dingman said. For instance, he pointed out that many of the sidewalks are cracked and decomposing, have grass growing up through cracks and unleveled surfaces, making them challenging to travel on with a wheelchair.
"It's the grade and cross slope, and it's important that they be relatively flat," he said.
Dingham said some of the sidewalk work was prompted by complaints people had made throughout the state of poorly-accessible sidewalk areas in need of repair and redesign.
The sidewalks will be replaced on both sides of the street along Main, from 5th Street to 17th Street, with a projected completion date of March 31, 2017.
Dingman said he was happy with how the previous conflict between the MoDOT and Cassville school district was recently resolved to preserve the historic sidewalks bearing the names of its graduates.
"I was very pleased with how Branco worked together with everyone on that and how the community came together," he said.
Kristi Bachman, MoDOT transportation project manager, who has been involved with the sidewalk project since the beginning, said it's a federal law that pedestrian facilities must be ADA compliant, and MoDOT is tasked to carry out the law.
"The whole purpose of this project from 5th to 17th Street is to comply with that law," she said.
Bachman said she had been in Cassville at least a half dozen times to survey the sidewalks and meet with property and business owners and a design team and survey team. She said she saw a need for the sidewalks and room for improvement.
"When I was in Cassville, I always saw pedestrians using the sidewalks," she said. "I think the new sidewalks are going to be an outstanding project for the community. I've seen a lot of struggling with the existing system, and this will be a great project [and improvement] for the people who live and work there.
Bachman said MoDot was tasked with making all sidewalks in the state compliant, not just Cassville.
"Cassville is just part of that plan," she said. "We will be systemically going through the state and going through all of the sidewalks. It just had to be the time for Cassville."
Bachman said usually, work is triggered when another project is underway, and in this case, it was the same. Just in the last few months, MoDOT was in town repaving sections of Highway 248 and 112.
"We looked at the sidewalk while there," she said. "MoDot has established a deadline of 2027 statewide to make sure that everyone that has sidewalks [evaluate them and] make them compliant."
While the sidewalk work is underway, Bachman said the agency will be working with local businesses and property owners, especially as they begin approaching the square and the flurry of activity that takes place there.
"Our concern is making sure we work with business owners and that people can have access to businesses while we work there," Bachman said. "And just like [we did with] the school, we'll work with the businesses and see if we can work around schedules and things of that nature.
To sum it up, Bachman said the project is on track and on schedule and overall.
"I'm very pleased with how it is turning out," she said. "I think [Branco] is doing a great job keeping things on track."
As the project continues and with school starting, Bachman advised residents to use extra caution when in the construction area.
"Residents should just be aware of the sidewalk work and avoid the side of the street we are working on if they can," she said. "And we'll have traffic control and signs and barriers, but still we want to encourage [and promote] safety."