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Beacon Hill to Get Handicapped Ramps, Despite Protests

for G 05/27 - 27things - Magnificent & Modest: Beacon Hill Walking Tour. Acorn Street, one of few cobblestone streets still remaining, is one of Beacon Hill's most charming streets. (Courtesy of Historic New England) -- 17MarathonItineraries
Cobblestone streets like this one in Beacon Hill can pose difficulties for Boston’s handicapped residents.Courtesy: Historic New England

The cobblestoned streets of Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood have long plagued the city’s handicapped residents. The posh and historic neighborhood is the only area of the city that does not comply with federal disability laws.

But according to Mayor Marty Walsh, that’s about to change.

Walsh informed about 125 Beacon Hill residents at a meeting Thursday night that the first 13 of more than 250 ramps will be installed in their neighborhood, The Boston Globe reports.

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The ramps will be installed on Beacon Street, between Charles and Park streets, over the next few weeks.

“We’re not tearing down your neighborhood,” Walsh said to the crowd. “We’re simply asking to get around without walking in the streets.”

Residents of Beacon Hill have long resisted city proposals to comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

In December, members of the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission voted down the city’s proposal to install pedestrian ramps and tactile warning strips in the neighborhood. They held that the ramps and yellow plastic strips would affect the Colonial character of the streets.

The Commission was established in 1955 by the Massachusetts State Legislature to help preserve the neighborhood’s 19th-century aesthetic.

However, after a team from the city’s Inspection Services Department concluded this week that the neighborhood is unsafe for people with disabilities, Mayor Walsh said he has the authority to overturn the Architectural Commission’s December decision.

In the last six months, city officials and residents have been unable to reach any compromises on the new infrastructure. Officials rejected a proposal to use gray warning strips instead of the typical yellow, due to visibility concerns.

They also turned down a proposal to construct granite ramps instead of concrete ones because of added costs, and because granite is more prone to cracking.

Walsh told the disgruntled residents on Thursday that the city would do its best to make the new infrastructure as unobstrusive as possible, but the time had come for change in the centuries-old neighborhood:

“This has been going on for two and a half years,” Walsh said. “For whatever reason, this process got dragged out to a point where we have to do it.”

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