Workmen last week began a badly needed project to replace the handicapped access ramp at the rear of the state Capitol.
Not only was the existing ramp deteriorating — cracked concrete and rusty hand railings — it was anything but ADA compliant.
Public Works Manager Gus Nuñez said the ramp wasn’t only far steeper than federal law allows but too narrow. In addition, in order to get onto the sidewalk that leads to the ramp, wheelchair-bound people had to go more than 50 yards away to the Library and Archives building where there was access from the parking lot.
The new ramp also will be four feet wide instead of just 32 inches.
Workmen also replaced the sidewalk, putting in a handicapped access just a few yards from the ramp.
He said the existing ramp, built in the early 1970s has been an issue for years and recently it has been deteriorating more rapidly as more and more moisture was able to get into the structure.
“The new ramp will meet ADA (requirements),” said Nuñez.
To make the ramp less steep, it has to be longer, he said. And in the confined space between the capitol and the octagonal annex behind it, the only way to do that is to extend the base of the ramp halfway across what’s now the stairway between the two buildings.
He said it will also include an electric defrosting grid the length of the ramp that will come on automatically when sensors detect cold and moisture.
The project is costing Buildings and Grounds $86,000. Nuñez said the work should be completed by mid-December.
The project has caused some issues for state workers inside the Capitol and the adjacent Blasdel Building because of the noise from jack-hammers used to break up the existing ramp. Nuñez said that part of the work should be done pretty soon.
He said, however, there’s little he can do about the most common complaint — its distance from the nearest handicapped parking. For security reasons, the public can no longer drive into the tiny parking lot behind the capitol. Those people with mobility issues have to park literally several hundred yards away in the lot across the street.