City to debate crosswalk

Laren Weber and Laren Weber

Since removal of the safety device along Thurstin Avenue alerting drivers of the crosswalk near Court Street, pedestrian safety has become a concern.

The flashing lights that once marked the concrete island were removed after city officials determined they no longer met current safety standards.

“It gave the illusion of being safe, but it wasn’t,” said John Fawcett, municipal administrator, at Monday night’s city council meeting.

The device was removed until studies being conducted by Proud Foot Engineering – a traffic engineering firm in Toledo – could be completed and analyzed.

Two small signs on each side of the road signaling to drivers that pedestrians have the right of way have temporarily replaced the blinking warning lights.

With the large amount of motorists that drive down Thurstin Avenue daily, Sarah Tomashefski, Ward 1 councilwoman, said crossing the roadway since removal of the safety device has become difficult.

Fawcett assured Tomashefski and other council members that he’s requested both city and University police to increase patrol in the area to aid in the safety of pedestrians.

In addition to the increased police patrol, warning signs are posted notifying drivers of the crosswalk ahead.

“Rules of the roadway require that they [motorists] give the right of way to pedestrians,” Fawcett said.

The concrete island in the center of the streets created a funnel effect narrowing the road from 12 feet to 10 feet at the Thurstin Avenue and Court Street intersection, which was a violation of current regulations.

When obstacles exist in the middle of the roadway, the road must remain at least 12 feet wide.

Anything less creates a dangerous situation, Fawcett said.

“It did represent a hazard not only for themselves [pedestrians], but for vehicles navigating down the road,” he said.

Representatives of the traffic engineering firm researched traffic and pedestrian counts, the number of accidents at the Thurstin Avenue and Court Street intersection and gaps between traffic.

They are scheduled to present reports and their recommendations to city officials today, Fawcett said.

“We’ll review those recommendations and implement what makes sense,” he said.

Fawcett stressed that a number of possibilities exist to create a safe crosswalk for pedestrians while maintaining a steady flow of traffic.

If placing stop signs at the intersection is the best decision, they could be placed within 48 hours.

But if the change is more complex than a stop sign, Fawcett said a temporary solution would be implemented to stabilize the intersection in the meantime.

“If, for example, they [Proud Foot] were suggesting a traffic light, that’s going to take some time, that’s going to take some resources,” he said.

Since removal of the device, Bill Blair, public works director, has noticed an increased amount of students crossing at Pike Street – where no crosswalks exist.

If students are concerned about the removal of the safety device on Thurstin Avenue, they shouldn’t cross where no crosswalks exist, Blair said.

“We can’t put crosswalks everywhere,” he said. “We need to move traffic down the streets.”

Fawcett also stressed that although by law pedestrians have the right of way, they need to take responsibility for their safety when crossing the street.

“As every pedestrian should, whenever that person crosses, use due caution,” he said. “And always use a marked pedestrian crosswalk.”