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A journey begun in 2006, when a class action suit was first filed by Californians for Disability Rights Inc., the California Council for the Blind, and several individuals, was one step closer to its end in the last week of 2009. Caltrans has settled a suit over claimed violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act for the inaccessible conditions of 2,500 miles of state-controlled sidewalks, cross walks, ramps and 300 park and ride facilities throughout California.
Under the terms of the settlement, Caltrans has agreed to spend $1.1 billion over the next 30 years to make these public rights of way fully usable by Californians who require walkers, wheelchairs or who have visual impairments. The suit was spurred by conditions on sidewalks and roads stretching from the the southern part of the state along the Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach, to further north, along Ashby Avenue in Berkeley. Attorneys for the plaintiffs say conditions were often so bad that wheelchair users were sometimes forced to move on to the road to avoid the inaccessible or damaged areas.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is pleased that the litigation is at an end. "This settlement is a win-win," he said. "It would be inexcusable to continue to delay these modifications. Instead of debating this through the legal process for the next decade, costing millions of taxpayer dollars, we are taking action to get this work completed."
This settlement affects hundreds of thousands of Californians with vision impairments or who use wheelchairs, canes or walkers. These numbers will increase as the baby boomers continue to age.
Funds for the repairs necessitated by the settlement will come from State Highway Operation and Protection Program and a pool of state and federal funds. The settlement still requires approval by a federal judge, class participants and the U.S. Dept. of Justice.