Is the new Bybee MAX station ADA compliant?

MAX ADA compliance
Richard Laughlin said he has to push his neighbor Shannon up a hill on Bybee Boulevard in her wheelchair. At the top is where a planned MAX station will go and Shannon, he said, can’t get up there by herself. (April 24, 2013 | KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Two southeast Portland residents are claiming a planned MAX commuter train station is illegal because it doesn’t meet ADA standards. And they’ve taken that claim to federal authorities.

The station, at the Bybee Boulevard bridge in southeast Portland, is planned for the intersection of SE Bybee and SE McLoughlin boulevards. It’s in the Sellwood-Moreland and Eastmoreland neighborhoods — within walking distance of Reed College, according to the project’s website.

The complaint from two people who live in the area is that the bridge is too steep to get to the top in a wheelchair. To get to the planned MAX station, riders would have to enter at the top of the bridge.

They complain TriMet is ignoring their concerns.

“They have weasel clauses and clever semantics,” said southeast Portland resident Richard Laughlin. “…But the fact of the matter is they are ignoring the handicapped on this issue.”

TriMet reports it is meeting Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

But Laughlin said the plans for the TriMet MAX station under the Bybee Boulevard bridge will make it impossible for people like his neighbor Shannon to ride the MAX. And he filed a complaint on this issue with the US Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration.

But, according to a letter from the Federal Transit Administration, the only thing TriMet actually has to worry about is making sure the station itself is ADA approved.

The bridge isn’t considered part of the project.

That said, when explaining why the FTA closed Laughlin’s complaint, the agency pointed out that the slope of the bridge is 7.8% on the steepest side.  And they say 7.8% would even be a legal slope for a wheelchair ramp.

But Shannon points to how long that bridge incline is — with no level place to stop and rest.

“There is no way I can push myself up the hill,” she said.

And, if this bridge were an actual wheelchair ramp at the station, ADA requires it should be no longer than 30 feet. At 30 feet up the hill, it’s still not close to the top.

In the ADA guidelines, even it concedes many people can’t manage a slope like this for 30 feet — much less the entire length of this bridge.

TriMet will have buses stopping at the top of the bridge for the station, which the agency reported can be used by those needing help up. From 5 a.m. to midnight, buses will pass this area at least every half hour.

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