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Beacon Hill Residents Sue to Stop Concrete Handicap Ramps

By David Bloch | 08/13/2014
Alvaro Tamayo

The Beacon Hill Civic Association has filed a lawsuit against the City of Boston to prevent the construction of concrete and plastic handicap ramps on its sidewalks, which they say will ruin the historic character of the neighborhood. The neighborhood group, according to a statement posted on their website, would prefer the use of “wire-cut bricks for the ramps and Architectural cast concrete pavers for the detectable warning pad,” as opposed to the “historically inappropriate materials and designs” currently in place. 

The Walsh administration intends to go forward with plans to install 250 ramps, the construction of which have already started. The Civic Association and the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission have reportedly delayed construction of the ramps for years in a bid to get the city to use different materials.

While the administration maintains that “the city has engaged neighborhood groups for a long time,” the Civic Association claims that Walsh “circumvented the process for making changes to the sidewalks.” The prohibitive cost of installation and maintenance of more expensive materials, such as granite, is the impetus behind the city’s decision to use concrete.

The Beacon Hill Civic Association contends that their preferred alternatives are “1/3 the cost of the plastic pads and possibly have a longer lifespan, as many of the plastic pads installed last year have already needed replacement.”

“So if maintenance and cost are an issue then there is a distinct advantage to the pavers.”

The statement continues: “The BHCA has never put the importance of the historic guidelines over importance of accessibility and safety. And in this case, there is no conflict between the ADA guidelines and the preservation guidelines – we can satisfy both.”

However, according to the city, that’s exactly what the group is doing. The Inspectional Services Department recommends immediate upgrade of the current ramps due to safety issues.

The Civic Association’s continued resistance is not surprising. They were founded in 1922 “after joining together to prevent the city from replacing the brick sidewalks with poured concrete.”