Initiatives tackle transportation barriers in rural CT

GOSHEN — With or without a car, getting around the Northwest Corner can be a challenge.

At its April 4 meeting, Northwest Hills Council of Governments (COG) heard presentations on how to improve road safety, comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, and increase senior transportation options in rural Connecticut.

University of Connecticut’s Safety Circuit Rider Program tracks road safety data and compiles reports through the Training and Technical Assistance Center. Safety Technical Associate Jason Hughes provided a summary on how municipalities can take advantage of these resources to make safety improvements.

In addition to traffic reports, towns can receive free rental equipment to improve road safety including radar guns, speed feedback signs, pavement marking reflectors, and range finders.

Training sessions are held regularly to educate municipalities on best practices.

“Let my team help your team,” said Hughes.

The next course to educate town employees will be held April 25 in Bristol and will focus on ADA policies, self-assessments, and transition plans.

Department of Transportation (DOT) ADA Coordinating Engineer Katherine Hedberg reviewed municipal requirements when it comes to ADA compliance.

Hedberg’s presentation showed that per U.S. Census Bureau data, more than 26% of Connecticut adults 18+ live with a disability.

There are seven items that need to be in compliance for public entities with more than 50 employees (including school staff): Designation of an ADA Coordinator; Accessibility to public services; Provide public notice of accessibility; Adopt a grievance procedure; Conduct a self-evaluation; Make evaluations publicly available; Develop a transition plan to come into compliance.

Falls Village, the one town in COG with less than 50 town employees, is not required to designate an ADA Coordinator, adopt a grievance policy, make self-evaluations publicly available, or develop a transition plan. These steps are recommended by DOT.

DOT’s goal is to make all town and state sidewalks ADA compliant with curb ramps by 2034.

“When alterations happen to roadways, such as resurfacing, curb ramps are required to be updated at that time,” said Hedberg. She added that bus stops, parking, push buttons for road crossings and sidewalks must also be in compliance, or noted on a transition plan.

At the April 4 meeting, Hedberg noted that seven COG towns have yet to designate an ADA Coordinator and eight COG towns have not completed self-assessments.

Municipalities can access sample transition plans and self-assessments through DOT, and more information will be provided at the April 25 training in Bristol.

For senior transportation services, DOT’s Richard Nakatsuka shared information on a grant matching program to offer rides to the elderly. Each year, up to $5 million is allocated at the state level for this purpose, and towns are eligible for funding based on the percentage of senior residents and total land area.

Combined, COG towns can receive up to $506,688 in matching funds to put toward elderly dial-a-ride transportation. The funds are intended to be used for day-to-day operations including driver salaries, gas expenses, and vehicle upkeep.

Nakatsuka said towns can apply individually, jointly, or through the COG.

“We really want the COGs to work with towns to... look at potential opportunities for coordinating service,” said Nakatsuka.

The deadline to apply for funding for the next fiscal year is May 15.

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