The city council is hoping to make pedestrians downtown safer in the upcoming year.
The city council has included pedestrian safety programs in the proposed budget for next year. These programs include expanding pedestrian crosswalk countdown timers and pedestrian flag programs in Columbia.
The city is targeting the downtown area, said Lori Fleming, city finance director. The city included $10,000 for five new pedestrian flag programs and $28,000 for seven new countdown timers.
“It being in the budget doesn’t really affect our evaluation,” said Richard Stone, traffic engineer. “But, it may ultimately affect what we do with pedestrian flags.”
The pedestrian flag program is intended to increase pedestrian visibility. The flags are located at the Clinkscales and Ash intersection near the Activity and Recreation Center. Pedestrians are supposed to pick up a flag when they reach the intersection and hold it up as they cross the street. However, the program has had problems with thefts and nonusers since it started in May.
City Manager Ray Beck said the Clinkscales and Ash intersection is an unusual intersection for the program. Normally the flags are located at intersections without stop signs or crosswalks. He is proposing moving them to downtown Broadway to see if the program is more successful.
The pedestrian countdown timers have had a better start than the pedestrian flags.
“All the feedback we’ve gotten on the countdown timers has been positive,” Stone said.
The pedestrian countdown timers are located near the Columbia Public Library at Garth Avenue and Broadway. As soon as the walk signal appears, the timers flash the number of seconds pedestrians have to cross the street before the light changes. Each timer costs about $365.
Beck said adding the timers helps make crossing on a wide street, such as Broadway, more pedestrian friendly.
“If I come to a street and it has five seconds left, I can decide if I can cross, as opposed to now where it just flashes and you may only have two seconds left,” he said. “It’s unsafe and holds up traffic.”
Public Works is still working on the proposal that is to be complete by the end of the summer.
Beck said the city is setting aside money for the programs now. However, the council can decide whether to use it after they receive the report.