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Is PennDot obligated to have the sidewalk clear for pedestrians?

This topic contains 82 replies, has 23 voices, and was last updated by  buffalo buffalo 6 mos, 4 weeks.

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gg

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Nov 29 2013 at 6:33pm #

Currently on the Highland Park Bridge they have some stupid sign that has a base which takes up the whole sidewalk. Someone moved it (lol) a few times to make a path, but it has been moved to block people again. Yes, you can walk over it or maybe ride a mountain bike over the sandbags, but certainly a person in a wheelchair couldn’t get by there and it is tough on my fixed because I can catch a pedal. Do they have any obligation to keep the sidewalk free of that crap? They could easily put the sign on one of the many poles, but PennDot is just lazy and they just do whatever is easy. Any advice to get that fixed or file a complaint, or is PennDot above all that and no one cares about sidewalks being clear? Don’t know, but I do know 311 doesn’t work with PennDot. Thanks for any thoughts.


gg

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Nov 29 2013 at 6:44pm #

What about this? Seems they can’t do what they are doing, but I am not handicapped, but does that matter?

http://www.dot.state.pa.us/Internet/Bureaus/pdDesign.nsf/DesignHomepage?OpenFrameset&frame=main&src=HQADPedAccommod?OpenForm


Swalfoort

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Nov 29 2013 at 7:07pm #

Technically, yes they are required to maintain clear pedestrian access and continue to meet ADA access requirements even during construction.

But, this doesn’t seem to be a high priority for PennDOT. And, in their defense, I think there is something weird about the HP Bridge….like the City is responsible for maintenance or something. I need to look that up to be sure.

In the meantime, report it to 1-800-Fix-Roads, and submit a 3-1-1 request that it be kept clear.

You could add West Carson Street and the West End Bridge sidewalks to those requests as well, if you were feeling altruistic. Same construction related sidewalk obstructions in those locations.

P.S. They prefer not to post the signs on the sign posts, because drivers keep hitting them where they overhang the roadway. Or so I have been led to believe.


Vannevar

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Nov 29 2013 at 7:44pm #

It is a real demonstration of PennDot’s prioritization of cars over people. There are often ways to do it without blocking the entire sidewalk, they’re just a bit more difficult or expensive.

I wonder if a State Senator’s office might hold some influence?


Swalfoort

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Nov 29 2013 at 7:48pm #

@Vannevar, that’s not a bad suggestion….if you know of someone who will listen.


gg

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Nov 29 2013 at 7:48pm #

Thanks for the replies. PennDot does plow those roads. Of course they plow the snow onto the sidewalks. Yep, that is where the snow lands, so you have to walk a bike across the bridge. When they plow and it gets icy overtop, even the best mountain bike can’t get over that. It is not passible. I want to complain about all of it, but sometimes I just feel it is a waste of time. We are talking about PennDot. They are beyond reach IMHO, but I will give it a go.


Swalfoort

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Nov 29 2013 at 7:56pm #

But it is a major river crossing in the City. The City might care a great deal. They might also be able to get a response from PennDOT. That’s why I recommended that route first.


Swalfoort

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Nov 29 2013 at 7:58pm #

Hey, what does the sign in question say, anyway?

If it is related in some way to the 31st Street Bridge detour, it should be removed, anyway, as that work is complete.


Vannevar

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Nov 29 2013 at 8:30pm #

Swalfoort wrote:@Vannevar, that’s not a bad suggestion….if you know of someone who will listen.

well, I’m thinking that location is in one state legislator’s district.
So maybe call their local office and complain, why is PennDot obstructing my sidewalk? I’m just thinking, state legislator and state agency (PennDot), maybe that’s a more effective chain-of-command relationship?

But in order to do that, you’d probably have to have a legit residence in the legislator’s district, b/c I’d imagine if you can’t vote for/against them, they’re less interested in constituent services.

But if you’ve got somebody in a wheelchair who can’t get through, I would think a reporter would like a story.


salty

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Nov 29 2013 at 10:59pm #

FWIW, when I 311’d broken glass on the HPB sidewalk the response was “call penndot”… But note there is no mention of sidewalk issues in their contact for or FAQ other than implying they’re not reponsible. Total bullshit.

http://www.dot.state.pa.us/penndot/Districts/District11.nsf/reporthcp?OpenPage

http://www.dot.state.pa.us/penndot/Districts/District11.nsf/D11Secondary?OpenFrameSet&Frame=main&Src=%2Fpenndot%2FDistricts%2FDistrict11.nsf%2FFAQ%3FOpenPage%26AutoFramed


ericf

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Nov 30 2013 at 8:36am #

@gg,
I would start by calling the four people whose phone numbers are at the top of this chart:
ftp://ftp.dot.state.pa.us/public/Bureaus/design/BOD%20ORG.%20CHARTS/BOD%20ORG%20CHART.pdf
Then follow up with calls to WPXI,WTAE,and KDKA.


gg

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Nov 30 2013 at 8:44am #

Swalfoort wrote:Hey, what does the sign in question say, anyway?

I think it is a truck detour sign. It could easily be on one of the countless poles, but they are pretty darn lazy and I doubt anything would ever get done on this matter. I called 311 about the PennDot crew heaving some asphalt on the sidewalk, which is still there because they were too lazy to dispose of it properly and I was told to call PennDot. What gets me is, it really wouldn’t be that big of a deal to put the sign up right, but they just don’t care. I doubt I could pull off the handicap point of view since I am on a bike and am not a very good lier. There are other signs clipped to the Jersey Barrier or whatever you want to call the concrete wall between the road and the sidewalk. Wish they could have just done that with this ONE stupid sign. Then the sidewalk would actually be passible.


gg

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Nov 30 2013 at 8:49am #

ericf wrote:@gg,
I would start by calling the four people whose phone numbers are at the top of this chart:
ftp://ftp.dot.state.pa.us/public/Bureaus/design/BOD%20ORG.%20CHARTS/BOD%20ORG%20CHART.pdf
Then follow up with calls to WPXI,WTAE,and KDKA.

Thanks for the link. Maybe I could nicely ask if there is any way they could change the sign holder to a clip on type so people can get through. Imagine if they said, “sure”. One can dream. :)


Pierce

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Nov 30 2013 at 4:27pm #

They had those kind of take-up-the-whole-sidewalk signs on the Homestead Grays bridge for a while too, so it’s not a fluke

They’ve basically just plopping down sign holders designed for shoulders (which is also annoying for cyclists) on sidewalks

Although this would be contrary to my environmental leanings, it would be nice to just throw them over the bridge, or perhaps hang them from the bridge with something sturdy

I’ve 311d something before and they sent it to PennDot themselves


jonawebb

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Nov 30 2013 at 6:07pm #

They eventually fixed the sign on the Eliza Furnace chute. So it can be done.


erok

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Dec 2 2013 at 11:04am #

They are not supposed to block sidewalks with those detour signs. i’ve had them fixed or moved by calling PennDOT myself.

What I’ve gathered from some contacts there is that they often have contractors put those signs up, who often just do the simplest thing.

once you complain to penndot, i’ve found them fix them fairly fast. now when penndot will get the message to actually direct their contractors to do the right thing is yet to be determined.


Pierce

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Dec 3 2013 at 4:26pm #

Speaking of PennDOT,

Whatever happened to that transportation funding bill a while ago?

I called my reps and talked to people, but I still don’t really feel heard or represented

Is PennDOT actually doing anything for 21st century transportation? I don’t want all my tax money going to maintain transportation systems designed in the 60s and used by car drivers


jonawebb

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Dec 3 2013 at 4:47pm #

It passed, and included funding for biking and mass transit. From the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia (I’m not sure why I’m on their list, I’ve only ridden there a couple of times):

What will this bill do for biking and walking? A lot. As the Secretary told advocates Monday night, “This is the biggest step forward for the bicycle and pedestrian modes of transportation in the history of Pennsylvania.” The bill:

Creates a multi-modal fund that grows from $30 to $144 million over a 5-year period, to which bicycle and pedestrian projects can apply for funding;
Sets an annual minimum of $2 million of that fund to be spent on bicycle and pedestrian facilities;
Makes it easier to use state transportation money for pedestrian safety projects, streetscaping & lighting;
Explicitly states that Pennsylvania’s comprehensive transportation system includes Pennsylvania’s “numerous bicycle and pedestrian facilities,” which will make it easier for bicycle/pedestrian projects to compete for highway funds.


jonawebb

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Dec 4 2013 at 8:12am #

BTW, after some search I found the on-line form to complain to PennDOT. It is here. And I think it only works with Internet Explorer.


erok

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Dec 4 2013 at 9:24am #

in PennDOT’s defense, it says it “best used” with internet explorer. Not sure if that makes it better or not. also, i never thought i’d type the words “in PennDOT’s defense.”


jonawebb

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Dec 4 2013 at 9:33am #

I tried it with Chrome and the submit button didn’t work.
But web development is amazingly more difficult than it should be. You have to test with each individual browser to see how it does. It’s really remarkable.


andyc

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Dec 4 2013 at 2:24pm #

multiply by the various browser versions as well. Plus potential plug-ins.


Ahlir

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Dec 4 2013 at 7:08pm #


Creates a multi-modal fund that grows from $30 to $144 million over a 5-year period, to which bicycle and pedestrian projects can apply for funding;
Sets an annual minimum of $2 million of that fund to be spent on bicycle and pedestrian facilities;

So, maybe ~6% decreasing to ~1.5% of the pot dedicated to bikes and peds? That sucks. What multi/inter-modal probably means is huge parking ramps at the terminii of subway lines (like in DC). Not a bad thing, but not much to do with bikes. (Oh wait. Pittsburgh doesn’t even have a subway to speak of. Waste of taxpayer money, I keep being told.) So, I guess we get pretty much nothing…

–> make sure you vote next year, and not for the incompetent Corbett, or his clown party.


Swalfoort

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Dec 5 2013 at 9:49am #

(I apologize for contributing to the jacking of this thread……)

I suspect the best value for the multimodal fund will be in attacking problems that don’t fall neatly within a single mode.

The example I tend to use is the need to raise the elevation of the bridges in West Park/Allegheny Commons over the railroad tracks.

The bridges are in poor condition. They need major rehab/replacement. That’s what instigated this whole “need.”

The bridges cross a set of railroad tracks. A while back, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) set new national standards that say that a new bridge over active railroad tracks must permit a minimum vertical clearance of 22 (or 23?) feet from the top of the track to the lowest vertical obstruction. This permits the railroads (and interstate commerce) to function most efficiently.

The old bridges in West Park do not provide the now required vertical clearance. So the design/aesthetic of two historic bridges will have to be altered to provide the required clearance. The approachs to the bridge will be longer, and perhaps steeper, and the bridges will rise higher above the surrounding park.

An alternative proposal COULD be to LOWER the elevation of the railroad tracks, permitting the bridges to remain at their current elevation vis a vis the local roadways. But, that would not be inexpensive. And why would the railroad want to spend money to “solve” a problem that they are neither responsible for, nor requested (although they are the primary beneficiaries)?

The multimodal fund, as I understand it, could conceivably be used to “fix” a highway problem by investing in a railroad solution. it would probably not be cost effective for a single bridge, but with two bridges in very close proximity to one another, who knows….maybe it is cost effective to lower a mile of railroad rather than redesign the approaches to two historic bridges in a park setting.

As a side note, I understand that there are other reasons (high water table among them) that may make this an unreasonable solution for the West Park Bridges used in the illustration above. It was simply an illustration based on a locally recognizable scenario.

And yes, it could be used to provide “intermodal access” at transit nodes. Even if that other mode is cars, and the access feature is a parking lot.


Ahlir

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Dec 5 2013 at 3:55pm #

The example Swalfoort is similar to other changes we’ve been seeing around town. For example the rebuilding of the tunnel arch next to the Southside Works and the Jail Trail bridge at Bates. Both were done in preparation for new train and truck height standards. Basically, containers are getting larger and if you want freight routed through certain regions the infrastructure needs to be up to spec.

I was not trying to disparage the intermodal fund; it’s a great idea. My only gripe is that only $2M per year is all that will go to both bikes and peds.

To put the $2M into perspective: the Mon Wharf Switchback budget is/was $3M. Yes, that’s 50% more that the entire annual allocation for all bike and ped projects, for the entire Commonwealth.


jonawebb

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Dec 11 2013 at 9:09am #

BTW, did PennDOT move the detour sign on the sidewalk on West Carson street near the West End bridge? I complained about it a couple weeks ago and they said that the issue had been resolved, or was going to be.


pinky

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Dec 11 2013 at 10:55am #

As of last week it was still in the way. You can get around it on the sidewalk, but there is very little margin for error. I’ve complained multiple times, and I can only think they consider it to be good enough.


StuInMcCandless

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Dec 11 2013 at 11:08am #

Sounds like it could be a job for the Urban Repair Squad. Isn’t it just a half dozen sandbags and a 50-pound sign on a stand? Or do they legitimately have to send out four guys and a truck?


pinky

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Dec 11 2013 at 12:51pm #

Stu, you’re right – it’s sandbags and a sign on a stand. But the sidewalk isn’t wide enough for that stand, so there’s nowhere to move the sign because of the way the sidewalk butts up against the fence by the Duquesne Incline and that ugly ass office building.

I’ve posted this fancy gif before, but this will give you an idea of how they look (and there are I think 4 signs that are arranged like this).


edmonds59

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Dec 11 2013 at 1:20pm #

Somebody should eminent domain that MF’ing buncher building, 1600 W. Carson, and build a river park and connecting trail to the West End Circle. If the MF’ers could ED and demolish an historic church to widen 28, this seems like an excellent course of action for this POS.
My undies officially get in a bunch whenever I think about this stupid 1,000 foot section of roadway that these latter day Robert Moses’ are too stupid to figure out.


jonawebb

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Dec 11 2013 at 1:58pm #

@edmonds, agree. What we really need is a Robert Moses, on our side this time. He would have that warehouse and parking lot ED’d, torn down, and rebuilt as a park with bike trails in one year.


StuInMcCandless

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Dec 11 2013 at 4:24pm #

Hmm. A couple of blocks to take up the height differential to the parking lot. A saw to cut the horizontal strips. Some duct tape to put the strips back together. Several strong arms to lift the sign over the fence. A few minutes to reposition the sign on the blocks and move the sandbags to secure it. Maybe even some wire to secure the sign to the fence, in so doing making it more stable than it is now.

Yeah, that sign could straddle the fence and still get the job done, and give us three more feet of sidewalk.


edmonds59

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Dec 11 2013 at 6:00pm #

The parking lot is like 8 feet lower than the sidewalk for the most part, though.
Besides, Buncher would bitch that it’s on their property.


Marko82

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Dec 11 2013 at 6:20pm #

Since PAdot thinks it’s ok to block the sidewalk, I think it should also be ok to block that right travel lane there too. I wounder how often you would have to call to get that thing removed from the lane?


byogman

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Dec 11 2013 at 9:44pm #

Marko82 wrote:Since PAdot thinks it’s ok to block the sidewalk, I think it should also be ok to block that right travel lane there too. I wounder how often you would have to call to get that thing removed from the lane?

Guessing one call and about 20 minutes. You could probably grab the whole thing as a youtube video with a little discussion of PennDOT vs. any non motor vehicle interest as filler. Talk about the problem, maybe talk to a couple pedestrians and then… exhibit A. If you’re feeling ambitious repeat the out of the bike lane ticket video antics once the problem is “fixed”. Only trouble is arrest potential. Ah well.


StuInMcCandless

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Dec 11 2013 at 10:15pm #

Item the first:
If I parked my motorcycle on the sidewalk there for two days (which is narrower than the sign), I would be ticketed and towed, without question.

Item the second:
Eight feet down, eh? Skip the blocks, then. Just hang it over the fence and wire it up good and tight. What’s Buncher going to claim? Air rights?


Steven

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Dec 12 2013 at 12:23am #

Don’t trucks back up to the loading docks in that area? A sign hanging over the fence could get hit. You don’t think PennDOT is going to risk damaging an expensive sign, merely for the safety of people who aren’t even in cars?


salty

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Dec 12 2013 at 1:00am #

There was a sign there when I used to ride to work that way… in 2009. Has it really been there 4+ years or did it go away and return? You can’t even safely walk around it much less ride, and there’s a bus stop there too.


StuInMcCandless

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Dec 12 2013 at 9:38am #

@Steven, you’re right. To the toolbox, add a hacksaw to remove the building-facing parts of the sign that hang over the edge. Problem solved.


jonawebb

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Dec 12 2013 at 9:49am #

Alternately, since PennDOT isn’t responding, go to your state government representative for help. They have people on staff to deal with situations where state agencies aren’t responding to their constituent’s requests.

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