During the summer, 15th Street, from Olive to Main Streets, was repaved – fixing potholes and other road issues. When students returned to campus, they noticed another change to the street – no more crosswalks.
Ron Albritten, street superintendent of Murray, said the city is studying 15th Street to decide if crosswalks will be repainted.
Currently, hoses are laid across the street counting cars, their speed, direction of travel and other data to be used for the traffic engineering study.
“You can’t just paint a crosswalk on the street and that be enough,” Albritten said. “When you paint a midblock crosswalk like that, what you’re doing is saying this is the safest place to cross. You have to determine what makes it the safest place to cross.”
He said there was no traffic engineering study when the crosswalks were originally placed on 15th Street.
Albritten said studies are required for midblock crosswalks to make sure everything meets the requirements and warrants for where a pedestrian crosswalk should go.
“What we’re doing is getting a traffic study to see if they will be recommended to be put back in and where they would be recommended to be put back in,” Albritten said. “There is a chance that none of the crosswalks be put back in. Studies have been done for years, and the common misperception is a crosswalk improves safety. Studies have shown that is not always true.”
He said often pedestrians do not look before they enter a street, because they think just because a crosswalk is there, it makes it safer.
“We’re having people step right out in traffic,” Albritten said. “Motorists and pedestrians alike do not understand the pedestrian laws. Even if the pedestrian legally has the right of way, they have a responsibility to stop.”
He said the city is trying to work with the Occupational Health and Safety classes at the University to see if they can assist with collecting the date for the pedestrian study.
Interim President Tim Miller said he has received several emails from faculty members reporting the danger of the situation and their concern about students and drivers.
“Students are crossing wherever they can,” Miller said. “The students need to be careful because of the drivers and the drivers need to be careful because of the students.”
Since 15th Street is a city-owned street, the University has no control over the lack of crosswalks.
“The city is responsible for painting those crosswalks,” Miller said. “We have been in contact with them because we know this a serious issue. We feel like they are going to do something, but we have no control over when they are going to do that.”
He said he hopes something will be done soon.
“We don’t want any accidents,” Miller said.
Earlier this year, the University and the city did a study on 16th Street and the safety of pedestrians and drivers.
After the concern was raised about crosswalks and pedestrian safety on 16th Street, the city of Murray collected data and began working with the Department of Highway Safety to investigate ways to make a stretch of 16th Street safer for vehicles and pedestrians.
Matt Mattingly, city administrator, said an average of 7,200 vehicles travel along 16th Street per day. It is the third most used road by cars in Murray and the most used road by pedestrians.
The City of Murray Public Safety Committee, who commissioned the city to compile data relating to the use of the road, brought the issue of increasing safety precautions along 16th Street to the city’s attention two months ago.
Since the presentation of the city’s findings, the committee has conducted further research, which has since been passed along to the engineering firm from the University of Kentucky Extension Office for the Department of Highway Safety.
Jay Morgan, provost and former chair of the City of Murray Public Safety Committee, was the one who raised the issue of improving safety measures along 16th Street in February.
Suggestions of lowering the speed limit and other possible solutions discussed have included improving or adding more crosswalks or shutting down the area of road that runs through the University.
Travis Cartwright, senior from Paducah, Ky., said he thinks 15th street needs more than a couple crosswalks.
“Areas by The Burrito Shack and Mr. J’s need an area for people to cross the street,” Cartwright said. “It’s a high-traffic area. I think crosswalks make it more safe.”
He said no crosswalks result in people crossing the street wherever they please.
“Even the crosswalks that are located on Olive (Boulevard) are barely visible,” Cartwright said. “If they want people to be safe, they need to paint back the crosswalks.”
Story by Meghann Anderson, News Editor