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SHA begins ADA compliant sidewalk work

Richard D. L. Fulton

(7/20) The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) is "upgrading" sidewalks in the Thurmont to comply with federal Americans with Disability Act (ADA) mandates, a project that could run into December.

The reconstruction would affect only sidewalks along state roadways, according to John Gover, SHA ADA coordinator. The ADA improvements will be implemented in two phases spanning several months, and will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Phase One, Gover said, would take-in sidewalks beginning "a little bit south of Center Street" and proceed to Lawyers Lane.

Phase Two would start in the area of Sheetz, proceed through the town square, and then to Route 77.

Phase One will likely have commenced by the first of August and completed in September. Phase Two would commence as Phase One becomes completed, and would be done before Christmas.

Neither the carnival nor Colorfest will be impacted by this project, Gover said. "We’ve already spoken about stopping work during those times of the year. We have that on our calendars."

"As you get closer down towards Lawyers Lane there’s a couple of gaps in the sidewalk," he said. "We’re actually filling those gaps in and make a complete run of sidewalk all the way down."

"Wherever we replace the sidewalk we’ll going to upgrade the curb and gutter," Gover said. Through the main section of town we don’t have a separate pour for curb and gutter. The curb and gutter is actually poured as part of the sidewalk."

We’re going to upgrade all the driveways entrances to be ADA compliant and all the sidewalks will be ADA compliant," Gover stated.

The ADA coordinator stated that property owners will be given a week’s notice that they will be losing driveway access or the use of sidewalk along the state road for a specific day.

The state contractor will be using a fast-setting concrete that sets in about 12 hours, Gover noted.

Sidewalks will be expanded to a five-foot width where they exist at a lesser width. However, where the sidewalks are already in excess of that width, no sidewalk will be narrowed where they are already wider. "We cannot have a negative impact on the width of the sidewalk," he stated.

Gover said he would look into how the state proposed to circumnavigate existing street trees.

The SHA presented an overview of their plans to the Thurmont Board of Commissioners at their June 24.

Normally, businesses and residents are responsible for maintaining and upgrading public sidewalks located on their properties.

However, because the state is performing the upgrades of sidewalks (and driveway entrances) along their roads, those affected properties are essentially getting "$700,000 plus (worth of work) free," according to Thurmont Commissioner Marty Burns.

"This is the biggest gift horse this town has seen in a long time," he said.

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