River Cities

$885,900 state grant to help fix sidewalks

Helen Gannon, a former Miami Springs city councilwoman, helps her daughter, Debra Ferrero, access a sidewalk in her wheel chair outside her best friend's home.
Helen Gannon, a former Miami Springs city councilwoman, helps her daughter, Debra Ferrero, access a sidewalk in her wheel chair outside her best friend's home. FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

Sidewalks around the three-square-mile city of Miami Springs are getting an $885,900 upgrade, thanks to a Florida Department of Transportation grant.

The grant will “retrofit city sidewalks with federally-mandated ADA-compliant ramp installations and repairs,” states a Nov. 17 city news release.

“We are getting yellow markers that will help disabled people to safely go from place to place around here,” said Helen Gannon, a former city councilwoman who has been an outspoken advocate for sidewalk upgrades at recent council meetings.

Gannon was instrumental in helping the city obtain the grant, she said, so that her disabled daughter could readily traverse area sidewalks in her wheelchair to visit nearby friends.

“Accessible sidewalks are vitally important to create communities where the environment allows each person to participate in their community and not become cut off to the outside world,” said Matthew Dietz, a Coral Gables-based attorney who specializes in disability law.

Accessible sidewalks, Dietz added, increase safety and keep pedestrians out of traffic.

In 2009, a woman was struck by a car and killed walking home from the grocery store on Westward Drive along a section that did not have an accessible sidewalk.

Many of the city’s original sidewalks date back to the 1920s. Today, “less than 10 percent are universally acceptable,” according to the city.

The new access ramps will be installed at corners, near bus stops, and other areas “as appropriate.” The two-year project has been funded and is expected to start on or about July 2016. It includes installing 774 ramps with warning tiles as well as 13,942 linear feet of four-inch ramp concrete, according to the city.

An estimated 15,480 linear feet of existing four-inch sidewalks must be removed to adjust for the “elevation and slope requirements” of the new ramps.

“This will allow me to visit friends all by myself in my wheelchair without getting stuck in the dirt,” said Debra Ferrero, 55. “I am so happy about that.”

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