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Marion Makes Plan to Spend Millions on Sidewalk Ramps

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MARION, Iowa A city-wide sidewalk ramp project is unfolding in Marion.

The city just adopted a plan to fix up ramps to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA.

City leaders said this comes as the Department of Justice has changed its interpretation of the law. Engineers have ranked them based on need for repair.

Right now, a majority of the city's 3,300 curb ramps do not fully comply with ADA. Sixty-nine percent of the ramps are considered noncompliant and 21 percent are partially compliant. That leaves only 10 percent that are currently built up to A-D-A standards in Marion.

Over the next two decades the city plans to spend about $2 million to fix up the sidewalks ramps.

For about 89 years, Barbara Fitzgerald has lived in Marion. She knows what it's like for people with disabilities to get around.

"I've been crippled all my life," said Marion's Barbara Fitzgerald. "I was born with a birth defect."

She has depended on a wheelchair to get around for about thirty years.

"Some of the ramps are so steep that even with my strong arms, I can't pull up," Fitzgerald said.

Over time, Barbara has noticed sidewalk ramps have changed. Now, city officials want to make even more changes to most curb ramps in the city. The council has adopted its first Americans with Disabilities Act Transition Plan.

"Essentially what it is, is our plan for how we are going to go around our community and upgrade the curb ramps around our intersections to meet the current standards," said Marion City Manager Lon Pluckhahn.

The plan focuses on fixing current ramps, adding colors, gently sloping ramps and even small raised domes.

"Those are all cues to someone who is either visually impaired or mobility impaired, that they need to stop before they head on into the street," Pluckhahn said.

But as they embark on this mission, city leaders said it can be frustrating. They said the ADA compliance definition has changed over the years.

"When you're on a 20 year plan and by the time you are done with the last one, in 20 years, the ones you've done in year one might need to be done again," Pluckhahn said.

As for Barbara, she's looking forward to some sidewalk ramp changes.

"I think it would be wonderful," said

The city said if it fails to comply with ADA, it could lose out on road funding from the federal and state levels.

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