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D.C. red-top meters will cost extra $150,000

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Photo - Handicapped parking space (Examiner file photo)
Handicapped parking space (Examiner file photo)
Local,DC,Transportation,Liz Essley

The District Department of Transportation needs about $150,000 and some red paint to get its newly revamped handicapped parking plan up and running.

In a compromise struck with advocates for the disabled, the District agreed to reserve 1,800 on-street parking spaces -- about 10 percent of city's total supply -- for disabled drivers and to mark those spots with meters with red tops.

The District originally planned to install fewer meters and only has 1,600 red-top meters on hand. It has to buy 200 more at a cost of $750 each, adding $150,000 to the cost of the program.

The city has installed 450 red-top meters so far and has 550 in a warehouse waiting for the D.C. Council to approve legislation, sponsored by Councilwoman Mary Cheh, D-Ward 3, that would reauthorize the meter program.

An additional 600 regular meters will be painted red and installed.

The number of red-top meters, and the program's cost, jumped because advocates for the disabled wanted more reserved spaces, as many as one spot per block in downtown D.C.

"I have done a lot of work on this with the city and Mary Cheh's office, and really you can't just go by the numbers," said Kelly Buckland, executive director of the National Council on Independent Living. "There has to be at least one meter on every downtown city block."

DDOT spokesman John Lisle said the department will try to place a red-top meter on every block, but is only promising a fraction of that, two meters every square block.

"[In some places] there's something about the street or the design of the curb that prohibits us from putting it where we need to put it in," he said. "We made that commitment that that's what we would try to do, but there may be some places that we can't do that."

Buckland and other advocates for the disabled want to see even more improvements in DDOT's plans and Cheh's bill, including making more downtown parking garages handicapped-accessible.

"I've been kicked out of enough to know there's a lot of them you can't park in," said Buckland, who drives a van with a special ramp. "The ones that can be made accessible need to be made accessible."

District officials launched the red-top program -- and will begin to charge handicapped drivers for parking for the first time -- to combat the use of fraudulent handicapped placards, which people were using to get free parking.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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