Fairfax County Supervisor Alan Magazine charged this week that many county curbs and sidewalks replaced in the past few years have not provided curb cuts for the handicapped as required by law.
Magazine (D-Mason) said that both state and county officials have disclaimed responsibility for the oversight.
A Virginia statute requires that curb cuts be placed at intersections built or replaced after Jan. 1, 1975, Magazine said.
County officials say the state Department of Highways and Transportation is responsible for all road, curb and sidewalk replacement and repair in the county. Highway department officials acknowledge this responsibility, but point out that the statute specifies only that counties, cities and towns are required to provide the curb cuts and does not mention the highway department.
The Board of Supervisors this week approved Magazine's request to have county staff members determine who is legally responsible for making the curb cuts.
Andrew Niemic, a handicapped resident of Mason District, said in an interview that "the net effect of this buckpassing is that handicapped people in wheelchairs cannot move about freely without help from others. When Metrobuses with special lifts for handicapped people start operatin within a year or two, many poeple in wheelchairs won't able to get to the buses by themselves."
State highway department official Donald Keith said curb cuts can be built into sidewalk projects that have started since early summer, but that "we don't have the money, manpower or time to go back and alter work done since Jan. 1, 1975."
"I understand the highway department's reluctance to go back to 1975 to comply," Magazine said. "But a law is a law. Handicapped citizens in this county have received second-class treatment for too long. If it's the highway department's duty, I expect them to insert the curb cuts willingly and expeditiously."
John Callaghan, staff coordinator for the county's newly created Commission for the Handicapped, estimated that from 3,500 to 5,000 wheelchair-bound persons live in Northern Virginia, the majority of them in Fairfax County.