When do you need to install ADA compliant curb ramps as part of a pavement resurfacing project?

Figure 7-1. Curb ramps should be designed to provide access to people with mobility limitations and vision impairments.
Image source: FHWA

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) have released new guidance on when ADA compliance curb ramps must be installed as part of pavement resurfacing projects to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA defines pavement treatments as either “Maintenance” (that do not require upgrading) or an “Alteration” (which do require upgrading). Note that if new sidewalks are being installed, they need to have ADA compliant curb ramps.

What pavement resurfacing treatment constitutes an alteration?

An alteration is work that is a change that affects or could affect the usability of all or part of a building or facility. [1]  To eliminate confusion, the DOJ and FHWA met to produce a clear delineation of what pavement treatments are considered maintenance and what treatments are alterations, so highway agencies can know if they are required to incorporate curb ramps into a project. The table below shows which pavement treatments are considered maintenance versus an alteration. Any work listed in the alteration column must address ADA compliance regardless of who is paying for the project.

Table 1: Maintenance versus Alteration

Maintenance
(ADA does not need to be addressed)

Alterations
(ADA compliance must be addressed)

  • Surface Sealing
  • Chip Seals
  • Slurry Seals
  • Fog Seals
  • Scrub Sealing
  • Joint Crack Seals
  • Joint repairs
  • Dowel Bar Retrofit
  • Spot High-Friction Treatments
  • Diamond Grinding
  • Pavement Patching
  • Open-graded Surface Course
  • Cape Seals
  • Mill & Fill / Mill & Overlay
  • Hot & Cold In-Place Recycling
  • Microsurfacing/Thin Lift Overlay
  • Addition of New Layer of Asphalt
  • Asphalt and Concrete Rehabilitation and Reconstruction
  • New Construction

ADA Compliance Resources

NYSDOT’s Highway Design Manual Chapter 18: Pedestrian Facility Design discusses when sidewalks are needed and the standard for ramps.

NYSDOT Standard Design Sheets for ADA Sidewalk Curb Ramp Details

Joint DOJ/FHWA Technical Assistance on when ADA Requires Curb Ramps to be Provided

FHWA Recorded Webinar on ADA Resurfacing Technical Assistance

U.S. Department of Justice seal

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section

U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration seal

U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration

[1] 28 CFR 35.151(b)(1).

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