(CBS) — The Chicago Pedway is the popular and convenient underground walkway that tens of thousands use daily in the Loop.
But does it include access for everyone? A CBS2 Investigation reveals the roadblocks many face include continuously malfunctioning doors and elevators for the people with disabilities, along with manual push doors too heavy to push open in a wheelchair.
George Flores grunts as he fights his way through the Pedway in a wheel chair.
Flores demonstrated how difficult it is for people with disabilities to travel through numerous doors and elevators that line Chicago’s five-mile-long Pedway system.
A 2 Investigation found the multi-million dollar heated walkway is not equally accessible to people in like Flores in wheelchairs.
The Pedway, built with tax dollars and private money in 1989, is supposed to help pedestrians stay warm and dry while commuting through the city’s central business district.
It’s lined with stores and restaurants and connects Metra’s South Shore Line, as well as CTA’s Blue and Red lines to 50 different buildings.
But from Chicago’s City Hall and the State of Illinois Building and all the way to the Millennium Train Station, there are problems and alleged violations of the American Disabilities Act.
Flores tried to enter City Hall via the Pedway but says there was no access for him, and his wheelchair cannot pass through revolving doors.
Barry Taylor from Equip for Equality, a non-profit legal advocacy organization, agreed the doors were difficult or impossible for people with disabilities to access.
“It’s way too heavy for someone to do independently from a wheel chair,” he says.
Taylor used a pressure gauge showing at least 20 doors were in violation of ADA rules for being too heavy to open, forcing Flores and others into the cold.
“People with disabilities should be able to access the Pedway just like anybody else. It’s important, especially right now when it’s really cold outside.”
Flores pointed out dangers like sunken surface with large hazardous cracks steep and big enough to tip his wheel chair over.
If it’s not repaired, he says, “They’re an accident, a lawsuit, waiting to happen.”
The elevator by the CTA Red Line at State and Washington Street was broken for a week and didn’t get fixed until CBS 2 asked about it. Another elevator along the Pedway by Macy’s on State Street reeked of urine and was broken several times for months at time.
“It’s really disappointing that people with disabilities can’t use this resource,” Taylor says.
CBS 2 reached out to numerous agencies and private companies for comment.
The elevator by Macy’s is not the retailer’s responsibility. The city and state and CTA agree there is work to be done, and meetings are being held next week about upgrading the Pedway for everyone.
The city Department of Transportation, which manages the Pedway, is conducting assessments for long-term improvements.
A spokesperson from the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities issued this statement: “MOPD provides guidance for public and private entities alike on how to ensure compliance with the ADA and other applicable disability rights laws to ensure that people with disabilities can fully enjoy the amenities our city has to offer. In the months ahead, MOPD will initiate a more comprehensive evaluation of the Pedway in consultation with our counterparts at the city, other branches of government, as well as the private businesses located there, to ensure greater access for people with disabilities in accordance with federal, state and local law.”