Children in wheelchairs can easily roll on the rubberized surface at Emerson Park to get to playground equipment. While running errands or catching the bus, people in wheelchairs can use ramps to quickly cross Central Avenue at Lodi Avenue. And blind residents can depend on the loud chirps at some intersections on Kettleman Lane and Lodi Avenue to know when it is safe to cross.
All of these improvements are part of the city of Lodi's effort to make upgrades throughout the city to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Lodi City Council reviewed the different projects the city has completed over the last several years, and what still needs to be done to improve accessibility at city buildings and infrastructure, like streets and sidewalks, at its shirtsleeves meeting Tuesday.
They reviewed Lodi's ADA transition plan, which was created in 2005 and updated in February 2011, outlining priorities for access.
City manager Rad Bartlam said the city has focused on upgrading services Lodi residents use the most. For example, the city installed a new wheelchair ramp when it renovated the Lodi Public Library, and it added ADA parking stalls on a busy portion of Elm Street near the movie theater.
Completing ADA projects is important because it shows the city is making progress if someone legally challenges Lodi using the federal act, Bartlam said.
"We have to make those facilities that have the most number of people visiting them accessible because we have not only the obligation for accessibility, but those have the highest probability for people to challenge us," Bartlam said.
The city's main source of funding to do ADA upgrades is federal Community Development Block Grant funding.
Councilman Larry Hansen said that money is the city's only source to afford those upgrades, and he plans to stress that to federal politicians in the future when they discuss reducing funds.
"It's the most beneficial program I've seen as far as improving the quality of life for people in the community," Hansen said.
Since 1992, the city has spent a total of $8.4 million on ADA projects. That includes 15 sidewalk and ramp projects, 37 park projects and nine facility projects.
That does not include the improvements the city has made when it reconstructs roadways, Bartlam said. Currently, the city is installing ADA-compliant sidewalks and curbs while it is widening Hutchins Street from Pine Street to Lodi Avenue.
In 2010, the city reconstructed Lodi Avenue from Cherokee Lane to Sacramento Street, and put in ADA-compliant sidewalks.
The city is continuously studying the law to make sure its facilities are in compliance, Water Services manager Charlie Swimley said.
The city sometimes makes improvements and then the law gets more strict, he said.
For example, a wheelchair ramp at the north entrance of Hutchins Street Square is no longer in compliance because it is too steep, so the city plans to replace it within the next couple of years, Swimley said.
South of Kettleman Lane around Ham Lane, there are sidewalk and curb ramps that were installed in the 1980s that also are no longer in compliance.
Mayor JoAnne Mounce said it is frustrating the law changes so frequently.
"We could make a whole bunch of changes, then they could change the requirements and we'd be out of compliance again," she said.
Councilman Larry Hansen said he appreciated the overview of what the city has done.
"The city has done a pretty good job of keeping us as much in compliance as possible," he said. "You lose sight of what really has been done. It also brings to light the huge funding struggle to do this."