Proposal would put medians in College Avenue crossers' paths

Saturday, September 18, 2010 | 10:21 p.m. CDT; updated 5:16 p.m. CDT, Friday, October 1, 2010
Field observers counted the number of pedestrians crossing College Avenue from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on a Wednesday and Thursday. The numbers below reflect the average daily pedestrian crossings determined by Crawford, Bunte, Brammeier Traffic and Transportation Engineers in September 2009.

COLUMBIA — The Columbia City Council will vote Monday on whether to seek grant money to build medians on some parts of College Avenue.

While area schools are in session, there are more than 3,800 pedestrian crossings per day on College Avenue between University Avenue and Rollins Street, according to a report prepared by Tim Teddy, Columbia's planning and development director.

A majority of those crossings, more than  2,000 of them, are by jaywalkers, according to a report by consultants Crawford Bunte Brammeier, a firm that specializes in traffic engineering. City planners are trying to change that.

A proposal calls for building waist-high medians down the middle of College Avenue between University and Rollins to block jaywalkers from crossing.

“One of the points is to channel pedestrians to where drivers expect them,” said Mitch Skov, a planner in the city's Department of Planning and Development.

Channeling that flow would be two crosswalks, 15 to 20 feet wide, one between Wilson Avenue and Rosemary Lane and another about 50 feet north of Bouchelle Avenue.

The crosswalks would connect the East Campus neighborhood with existing pathways at MU. The report suggests that the nonalignment of campus paths and East Campus streets leads to diagonal crossings and pedestrian traffic within turn lanes.

These patterns and the volume of daily foot traffic have sometimes put pedestrians in danger.

“Instances where pedestrians darted between queued vehicles into lanes with moving traffic were numerous,” the report said. “It must be acknowledged that some motorists fail to react to the presence of pedestrians.”

The report even describes how a motorist struck a pedestrian while consultants collected field data in September 2009.

“There’s a perception of danger there. Drivers are stressed,” said Michelle Windmoeller, director of communications for PedNet Coalition, in reference to the project. “We’ve all heard of instances of near misses.”

Since 2005, there have been 11 collisions between pedestrians and cars on the stretch of College Avenue where the medians would go. Eight of those incidents occurred at the intersections with Rollins Street and University Avenue.

“There’s more interactions between cars and people at intersections,” said Windmoeller of the statistic.

The proposal is the brainchild of MU, rather than the city.

Former Missouri Students Association President Jordan Paul approached Gary Ward, MU's assistant vice chancellor for  facilities, about the issue in 2009. Ward then commissioned the study of pedestrian safety along College Avenue, said Karlan Seville, communications manager of MU Campus Facilities.

Ward took the study’s recommendations to the Missouri Department of Transportation and to the city. Both supported the plan, but no funding was available at that time.

In January 2010, MSA passed a resolution calling for the construction of a new crosswalk in the area “as soon as practically possible.”

On Sept. 1, MoDOT announced the availability of $2.6 million for improvements to roads in central Missouri. The application deadline for grants is Sept. 30, leaving little time for public comment.

That comment period could be critical considering the range of opinions on the issue.

“It’d be hard to get to class,” said freshman Zac Crase, who lives on College Avenue where the changes are being proposed.

Sophomore Regan Cousidins said the matter wouldn't affect her, “because I have to walk down that way towards Rollins to the nursing school.”

On Wednesday, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission discussed the plan and endorsed applying for a grant for it.

There will be time allowed for public comment prior to Monday's  vote.

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Bill Fisher September 19, 2010 | 8:15 a.m.

8 of the 11 accidents since '05 have happened at intersections with designated crosswalks, while only 3 have involved jaywalkers. Doesn't this suggest that the jaywalking problem isn't as much of an issue as the intersections? Maybe they should spend the money where it's needed instead of putting in an inconvenient eyesore of a median.

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