Story by Kayla Harrell, Staff writer
The Student Government Association passed a resolution that does not support any of the proposed three alternatives for the future of 16th Street, and asks city and university leaders to go back to the drawing board.
The SGA did not suggest an alternative idea for 16th Street in the resolution, which passed unanimously Sept. 30 in its first reading and won final approval Wednesday.
The purpose of the proposed 16th Street project is to address the vehicular and pedestrian traffic along N. 16th Street from Main Street to Chestnut Street, according to the City of Murray website. Each day that section of the street will see 11,000 pedestrians and 7,000 cars, President Bob Davies said at an Aug. 26 Board of Regents meeting.
Clinton Combs, president of the Student Government Association, said the resolution was important because it shows students care about the ultimate solution.
“We wanted to make sure [the] administration, city and state of Kentucky knew that this is something we are taking seriously, something that we are looking at and making sure that it is done right,” Combs said.
The Murray City Council has presented three alternatives for the congestion of 16th Street. The three options are:
Raise the road so students can walk underneath;
Loop the street around the Gene W. Ray Campus on the west side of 16th Street, which includes the Jesse D. Jones Hall and the Biology Building;
Create a wider loop around the Gene W. Ray Campus that would include cutting through university parking lots.
The Student Government Association “felt that none of the options really suited what we would consider the long-term goals of Murray State University,” Combs said.
Alisha Kempher, sophomore from Benton, Kentucky, said she knows many other students who do not like the options given by the city so far.
“Their options make the flow of the academic side of campus awkward,” Kempher said.
Although the Student Government Association did not include an idea for the city, the university has come up with an option.
“The President’s office has talked before about closing down 16th Street for a period of time to see where traffic goes,” Combs said. “Speaking for myself, I see that as an interesting option to see what happens.”
If the city closed down 16th Street, traffic would shift to other nearby streets.
“Shutting down the street would affect the Murray population more than it would the students,” Kempher said.
The resolution said the Student Government Association wants to see a sustainable alternative that will promote safety of the community, consider the future growth of campus, is a good steward of state money and provides for the preservation of university parking.
“The Student Government Association, who represents all the students’ interests, [believe] this resolution will have an impact,” Combs said. “We want what is best for the city but also what is best for our university.”
The executive committee of the Student Government Association, their sponsors and co-sponsors signed the resolution and are sending copies to city leaders.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make some meaningful changes to 16th Street,” Combs said. “We felt that the students’ voices should be heard throughout this process.”
The city has been collecting other input on a potential solution, including posting an online survey for residents last month.