Last year, I wrote an editorial ("I've got your Economic Stimulus Plan right here") about how the lack of road signs in Southern Illinois makes it hard to attract tourism.
Lo and behold, the Shawnee National Forest recently announced a program, funded by economic stimulus money, to start posting better road signs to help visitors get around.
Also last year, I pointed out that the 2009 Tour of Missouri bike route would pass an ugly pile of bridge wreckage near Oriole in Cape Girardeau County. Within a couple days, the Missouri Department of Transportation started cleaning up that mess, just in time for the race.
Am I good or what? OK, so both of these examples are probably just coincidences. My other ideas (new state parks, reusing historic bridges along city trails, preserving Bloomfield Road) haven't come to fruition yet. Still, I'm going to boldly assume that this blog does make a difference.
Now I'm ready to tilt at another windmill. A co-worker alerted me to a frustrating situation in "downtown" Kelso. The village has designated several disabled parking spaces along Messmer Street. However, the spots are not marked with signs and have very faded paint.
Here is what Messmer Street looks like on Google Street View:
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Can you find the handicapped parking spot in front of Ray's restaurant? It's the space closest to the stop sign, but it's only visible while standing right in front of it. Maybe.
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The situation is even worse at night. Good luck trying to figure out where these reserved spots are located (hint: one is front of Ray's, another is in front of the post office, and another group is located by a church). It's extremely easy to inadvertently park here. Of course, this little detail isn't stopping the local police from issuing tickets.
How nice. I can only conclude that Kelso expects visitors to have telepathic abilities.
Police officers and court judges are fond of saying that "ignorance of the law is no excuse." However, this works both ways: local governments must follow state and federal laws for the placement of road signs and pavement markings.
Under Missouri law (Section 301.143, RSMo, 2009), the requirements for designating disabled parking spaces can vary somewhat by circumstances, but it appears in all cases that a sign is required for each space.
State law also mandates that parking spaces meet the requirements of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities (4.6.4) states that disabled parking spaces "shall be designated as reserved by a sign showing the symbol of accessibility." It adds, "Such signs shall be located so they cannot be obscured by a vehicle parked in the space."
The pavement markings, if you can see them, also run afoul of the federal MUTCD, or Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. The lines between spaces must be white (not yellow) and the painted wheelchair symbol must be white (not blue), although it can have an optional blue background. Under federal law, the MUTCD applies to all roads open to public travel. Non-compliance could result in the loss of federal highway funding and open the door for lawsuits.
Furthermore, state law also includes this interesting clause: "No provision of the law for which official traffic-control devices are required shall be enforced against an alleged violator if at the time and place of the alleged violation an official device is not in proper position and sufficiently legible to be seen by an ordinarily observant person." (Section 304.271.2, RSMo, 2009)
Based on state and federal law, it is clear that Kelso is obligated to install the required signs and repaint the faded and non-compliant pavement markings. Until then, the village is performing a disservice to all motorists, disabled or not, by making it difficult for people to determine where they should park. I don't want to hear any excuses.
Do you know of other places around Southeast Missouri or Southern Illinois that have engineering problems? Let me know. With hubris and a little luck, perhaps we can prod local highway departments to make simple improvements that would improve safety, accessibility, and efficiency -- and comply with the law*.
*If I wanted to be truly picky, I could complain about the inconsistent placement of stop signs and speed limit signs within Kelso, but I'll save that battle for another time.