Driveway access-WWYD

neetsiepieSeptember 1, 2014

After a years delay the County finally got a contractor in to start working on road improvements, including sidewalks, stormwater drains, bike lanes, street lights, etc. The good news is it will make our neighborhood safer for walking (we live 5 blocks from an elementary school) and lights at night are not a bad thing. The bad news is that we had a right-of-way shoulder in front of our place, that visitors used for parking. We're losing that but have the ability to park either on the cul-de-sac across the street or around the corner.

At the time of the public meetings we were specifically told that when the driveway aprons were going to be poured, we'd only have a 24 hour period where we would not be able to access our driveways and would need to park elsewhere. No big deal. However...

This contractor has been 'problematic' (County Engineers description to me). A week ago they put in the outer, street side curb. This is about 12" above grade of our property. After I complained last week that we had been unable to use our driveway for at that time 4 days, the sidewalk was poured in front of our place along with the driveway apron. But it drops abruptly at the end of our driveway. Actually, it's still within the ROW. The engineer told me that the contractor would have to create a ramp at a minimum grade to be level with our driveway. But, the contractor wrapped up for the weekend on Friday, and they wont be back to work till Tuesday. And even if they DO pour the grade ramp to our driveway. there is still the issue of the outer curb side being 6-8" higher than the road, because they cut out the road for the storm drain.

We will STILL not be able to get into our driveway for an unspecified time. This is now causing serious hardship for us-DH's business is virtually non-existent because no one can get in our driveway. I have to stop in the middle of the street, put on flashers so we can unload groceries!

And to add insult to injury-they were to put in a drain on our lot because we're below grade of the improved road.. They never did it. And based on the grade of the new sidewalk/driveway approach, all the water will flow back into our driveway, flooding our garage!!

Lets not mention the fact that there is still over two feet between the edge of the new sidewalk and the property line of our lot-it's still in ROW, and there is a 10-12" drop on our side of the sidewalk. Who is responsible for that? Oh, this is just SUCH a mess!!

So, I'm going to call the county on Tuesday and arrange to meet with the inspector to get my concerns addressed. But do you think I should ask for compensation for the loss of income for DH, for the serious inconvenience for us personally? I mean, imagine you could not access your driveway for two weeks! AND I know we're going to insist that they install a draIn in our driveway too. But that will mean them having to cut into the newly poured (and wavy) sidewalk. Oh this is just such a nightmare!

The photo shows the new driveway ramp, it's lower than the actual sidewalk. DH is standing in the ROW and that is at least 6" lower than the top of the ramp. On the far side of the ramp you can see where the asphalt has been cut and its road bed-that extends out 4 feet from this driveway ramp. It's at least 8" drop there from top of ramp to road bed.

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I think you need to start making some noise with an ELECTED member of your county government. Do you have a councilman or something? Just "calling the county" doesn't work in my area. You gotta get the ear of a local politician. Unfortunately!!!

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 3:03AM
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You can ask the county for money but I seriously doubt you'll get anything. Remember the old saying "You can't sue city hall" or whatever it was.

A huge tree limb fell on my neighbor's car as she drove through a county park. It hit the roof and smashed through the windshield and luckily she only had a few scrapes and bruises because it could have been so much worse. Her car was only 3 months old and the county paid nothing - her own car insurance had to pay for repairs even though the county arborist agreed the tree was diseased and later removed it. She had to eat the $1500. deductible.

I'd call everyone - the county, your township, other neighbors. Honestly this is a tough battle and we had to do it once. The contractor who paved our street left a huge dip in front of our driveway. At the time DH had a corvette and he couldn't pull into the driveway because it would bottom out on the apron. And in the winter water would lay there and freeze.

We called the streets department, the mayor, and every single council member and followed up with certified letters with photos. The contractor didn't care - he'd long since finished repaving our neighborhood. I hate to say it but I honestly think the only reason they made the contractor return is that one of the councilmen had a Corvette too.

This post was edited by maire_cate on Mon, Sep 1, 14 at 14:08

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 8:17AM
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We have just been through this same construction project - new street, sidewalks, curbs, sewers, water mains, fire hydrants, driveway aprons and all the attending dust, dirt and inconvenience. It began early June and wrapped up just before the start of school. My DH also has a home based business although it does not involve customers coming to our home. We had to park elsewhere and the estimates for which days and how many days was often in flux and incorrect by a day or 2 to 4 or 5. We did not have personal issues with drainage correction but other neighbors did.

My advice to you is two fold - first, they're not done so if you have concerns about finished grades, ask. And second, focus on the big picture and the entire scope of the projects, not just bits and pieces. If projects within your county/town are generally well done, then I would be confident that this will be, too. We spent a LOT of time talking to the workers when they were here, everyone from the project managers to the excavators to the black top crew and even the crew that laid the sod on the parkways at the end. They have the most up to date info. We were friendly and understood the mess isn't their fault but part of the process and they really took good care of us. Other neighbors b*tched and moaned through the entire process and are still unhappy because the underground sprinklers they put on their parkways (city property) were destroyed. They were warned to remove them, didn't and now want compensation - not gonna happen. Was it inconvenient? You bet. I did the same thing dropping off groceries or hiked them a few bags at a time from a block away, but we survived.

At the end of the day we have a brand new water system, new hydrants, new street etc etc and seeing our tax dollars being used on our street. You'll have much the same thing when all is said and done but if you have concerns talk to the people doing the work, get info from them about how things will be addressed. I would be surprised if anyone in an office somewhere in your county has a clearer picture of what the work entails than part of the crew.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 9:14AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

I would talk to everyone I could...the workers, the head contractor, the town engineer, the city council...whoever you need to. And do it now while it's still under construction. Get the town engineer on site to show him exactly what the issues are, what your concerns are and work with him to come up with solutions so you aren't left with a mess.

I know it's upsetting, but if you come across as a complainer, they're less likely to help. You also don't want to go too far the other way like a pushover. Instead, be nice, stroke their egos and do it respectfully so they will respect you and your issues and see if solutions can't be achieved together.

As far as your lost business, I think you're SOL on that one...

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 9:48AM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

I am confused Pesky. Is your DH standing in what will be the sidewalk? Is that your driveway? I don't see a ramp yet. Is the area that still has the wooden frame attached part of the road? It may be distortion from the angle of your photo, but the asphalt looks like it isn only one lane at this point. Do you have a clear picture showing where the construction will meet your property and be higher causing the drainage issues? If you do, then that is what I would share with the powers that be. This picture doesn't really seem to show much since everything is unfinished and, to my eyes at least, doesn't make clear where your property is in relation to the expected ramp. I would get photos that show the big picture. Also, when you say there will be two feet between the property line and end of sidewalk, are you talking about a 'hell strip'? That is normal around here and although it is a ROW, it is our responsibility to mow.

Not knowing what your DH does for a living, I don't know if compensation for loss of income will be possible. Won't be easy for sure! Counties and cities are not ones to want to give away money, I am afraid.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 11:27AM
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This is what happens when municipalities are forced to work with the contractor who gives the lowest bid. Happens all the time around here. The people they hire are a bunch of f-in idiots, pardon my french. I am still dealing with a sidewalk that was poorly poured after the township dug up my lawn and sidewalk to repair water lines. The concrete spilled over the forms when poured, creating a jagged edge. It is impossible to edge that part of the lawn and looks like hell. I get agita every time I look at it.

I agree that your commissioner or whatever elected person represents you may be your best bet. In the meantime, go write "F-in idiots" in the wet cement. Er, maybe don't because you will have to look at that forever. I hope you can find some sort of resolution.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 12:11PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

I would ask for the compensation as a bargaining tool for getting things done. You know you will not likely get it and can magnanimously drop that in exchange for your concerns being addressed. I would definitely get the ear of the elected officials, both local and state. If I recall, you work for the state, I would use your connections to help you find the right people to get this dealt with.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 1:55PM
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I don't know what form of government your county has, but I would start with your immediate elected official. I have found that the County administrative staff responds more quickly to a request for an elected official than to an ordinary taxpaying person.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 3:03PM
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I can't seem to get multiple pix in one post, so I'll have to do several here.

This is standing in our driveway looking west. There is four feet of space where the asphalt was cut away and the curb is 10" higher at the asphalt side. This is sidewalk and the approach to our driveway apron. Where that drain pipe sticks out is completely within the ROW between the sidewalk and our property line. The green tag stake is our property line. This part has fill in it from where we did our new landscaping, so the drop is about 6", but where the new sidewalk edge is and the walkway to our front door, the drop is 10-12" in grade. So at this vantage right here, the drop from the apron to our property grade at the driveway is at least 6".

According to the contrator, they were paid for the sidewalk, nothing beyond it, meaning that once they take off the forms, this is what we would be subject to. Nothing but a drop off.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 3:31PM
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This is looking east. The debris is from our own construction project in our yard, and well, obviously, we can't get it out of our yard yet.

The telephone pole was relocated back 3 feet prior to construction. The neighbors driveway is shown here, and that drain pipe sticking out is 8" above the current grade. We don't know if they're going to cut it off, but at the very least, you can see that it will cause street run off to flow into our yards and driveways. We do not know what the black corregated pipe is for.

You can see the depth of the drop off better with this view of our neighbors driveway. The grass is a 3 foot wide strip between our driveways. The sidewalk does a roller coaster rise at the pole, then dips to either side for the driveway aprons. This is the same elevation as our driveway. And to think that the contractor has said they're not responsible for any more? Sickening.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 3:37PM
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This is what it looked like before they put in the sidewalks/driveway approaches. The road elevation was not much higher than our driveway and the old ROW. They installed new storm drains in this 16 foot wide space, directly under where the sidewalk is now poured.

The dirt came from our landscaping project. Our driveway is concrete (covered with dirt here) and we are planning to replace it as it's at least 30 years old if not older. Our driveway is 3 car widths, but they put the approaches over too far to the west, so now in order to access the eastern most part of our driveway, which is along the RV pad portion, you would have to come in at an angle. The far west ramp edge is lowest at the point where it's not even part of the poured driveway! It's more in line with the willow tree than the concrete driveway.

I thought about it last night and even if they DO pour a minimum grade ramp for ingress/egress, there is still a severe drop on the street side that you can't drive over it. I drive a 4WD pick up, but if I tried to go over that, it will mess up my alignment. Someone with a sports car would not be able to clear it.

I found the letter the contractor sent out saying driveways cannot be used for the next 5 days (this was hand delivered a week ago). It also noted to let them know if we had concerns such as maintaining driveway access, business operations or medical deliveries. Well, we DID let them know and their reply was "we got paid for 6 feet 6" of concrete, we're not doing anything else".

I'm going to call the Engineer tomorrow and arrange for an on-site meeting with them. I', also going to write a letter detailing the concerns and cc the Public Works Director. The funding for the project came from DOT grants, so I will likely be in touch with them too. Contacting the County Commissioners won't do anything-but I know our local legislators are very good at responding to constituants.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 3:51PM
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I am so sorry you are dealing with this.

Keep being persistent. Super polite but super persistent.

I just spent a year working w/my village to get a grant (50%) for a storm drain put into my property. Everyone told me I'd fail! No joke. They said they tried and failed . . .not me. I was always nice and said the minimum but enough to get the message across. It was put in 2 weeks ago and I am sighing the sweet sigh of relief.

Document, document, document. And don't give up!

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 4:50PM
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If all looks like you aren't getting results, call one of the local TV news channels and have them come out and film the situation. Look for one that tackles consumer advocate issues and gets results.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 9:45PM
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Hi Pesky. In what state do you live? My husband is a foundation and bridge contractor in Michigan who sometimes hires curb and gutter subcontractors, so I had him read this post. He said it's very wise of you to meet with the project inspector who will hopefully detail the project's next steps, and if you are unsatisfied with what you hear from the county, contact your DOT office and explain your concerns.

My husband said the sidewalk has to comply with ADA guidelines which define the drop offs and slopes allowed (i.e. perhaps less than 2" on either side but no way 8-12"). He thinks the project most likely includes fill on both sides of the sidewalk that just hasn't been completed yet. The concrete contractor may very well be finished with its portion of the project.

What is the distance between your property line and the edge of the sidewalk? Hubs said public funds can not be used for any work outside of right of way unless there's something like a temporary easement constructed.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 10:56PM
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Hi Juju, we're in Oregon. I've been eyeballing the differences in elevation on the street side, and it looks like they will BARELY meet ADA compliance, but that would mean bringing the road up higher than before.

There is a 2 foot ROW between the sidewalk and our property line. The contractor is doing all the work, not sure if he subbed out the concrete work, but doubt it-it's a very poorly done job (DH is a concrete guy). I hear them out there this morning dragging a bucket but haven't been out to see what is going on. My morning commute is going to be lovely now that school starts this morning, it's garbage pick up day and they're out there working with heavy equipment.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 10:23AM
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I emailed the County Engineer this morning from my work e-mail and within 15 minutes he called me back, eager to meet with me on the site. (My email signature includes my title and specialty).

Sooo-when he got there he was pretty upset at the work that had occurred, and he agreed that I was right to be upset. He called over the County Inspector and together we came up with a solution-they're going to add a concrete apron ramp to our driveway that will extend 6 feet into our driveway AND they're going to upgrade the drain in our driveway as well as relocate it so it helps keep our property from flooding. They will put topsoil in the ROW out 3 feet into my yard, I agreed to plant it, they said I could put whatever plants I want-I plan to use lavender and a low groundcover. They asked me when I wanted the driveway done and I said 'yesterday'-but that can't happen, of course. What they WILL do for right now is add a gravel base slope so we can actually drive in to the driveway and they'll add a ramp to the street side to avoid a jarring bump. That should occur tomorrow.

The driveway improvement is awesome-it means a lot less work WE will have to do when we replace our driveway. They're going to fix a few other drainage issues too. We got to talking shop, they know what it is I do and were impressed that I knew what I was talking about when discussing grade, drainage, plans, etc. Then they thanked me for being so gracious about the horrible job the contractor is doing. We commiserated a bit on that, too.

So over all I'm happier-I'm getting more done than I thought we would get. So, while I'm not holding my breath, I think it may be ok in the long run (I hope!) DH is going to oversee the work like a hawk, and these guys KNOW that I do inspections and permitting and know my stuff, so I suspect they're going to be cool with us.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 10:57PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

That's wonderful news! I'm so glad the on site visit with the engineer and the inspector was effective. That's great. Most of these guys are underpaid and overworked and have no way of keeping up with all what's happening. But if you point it out to them respectfully, they do their best to address the issues.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 11:13PM
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What a great resolution to this issue, I'm glad for you !

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 7:26AM
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That sounds wonderful, pesky - I'm glad you got the needed response from the County and hope all will go according to their amended plan for you.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 8:38AM
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With both a County Engineer and the County Inspector in your corner, you did good, pesky! What a great way to handle it, and I'm so glad you got an even better response than expected by handling the issue the way you did. Bravo! Hope it all continues to go well.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 12:46PM
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Wonderful news! It pays to be "pesky" :-)

    Bookmark   September 6, 2014 at 9:35AM
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