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Thursday, 30 March 2006
Crossing guardedly
Topic: urban issues
Excuse me for being obsessed with transportation issues. But I think this vital piece of the human rights agenda doesn’t get enough ink.

Anyway, the bad news keeps on coming. I just read in the D&C about a fatal accident – two teenagers, brothers – at what I know to be a lethal intersection just outside of Marion, Wayne County. At this busy spot, east-west traffic must cross a high-speed stretch of Route 21. Sitting there at the stop sign, you realize how easily you could be blindsided.

You ask yourself, why is there no traffic signal here? Well, replies your Inner Realist, the funding that could provide such things usually gets channeled to higher-profit ventures. Like Rochester’s Renaissance Square, which just got a $36 million boost to its sorry career. It all goes to prove the counter-adage: Necessity is the child of invention.

Meanwhile, in my own back yard, and along the bicycle path to my teaching gig at RIT, there’s another intersection crying out for change.

The following message, which I sent a couple months ago to an RIT online response service, tells the story:

”[Dear Pres. Simone:] Are there plans to improve conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists at the intersection of Jefferson and Brighton-Henrietta Town Line roads and John St.? The busy intersection now is equipped with some upgraded pedestrian signals, which are fine, but there's only one demarcated pedestrian crossing [i.e. on the west side of the intersection] where there arguably should be four.

“Crossing such an intersection, particularly after dark, can be intimidating and dangerous, as you can imagine, and the conditions surely don't encourage non-motorized commuting to campus. Can we expect improvements at this intersection, as well as on the now-substandard walkway on the south side of Jefferson Road, east and west of John St.? Thanks for responding.” (Note that the existing pedestrian signals were installed to accommodate people using the recently-opened Lehigh Valley Trail, North Branch, which roughly connects the University of Rochester to the RIT campus and points south. The signals look like state-of-the-art, and they’re highly visible, but they seduce walkers and bikers onto pavement occupied by cars and trucks stopped at the red light.)

Quite properly, RIT staff forwarded my email to the New York State Department of Transportation. Here’s the DOT’s response, delivered to me via rit.edu:

“The segment of the Jefferson Road project which includes the John Street/BHTL Road intersection is the fourth and final stage. It involves improvements to facilitate traffic flow as well as improvements to pedestrian and bicycle facilities. Specifically, new sidewalks would be constructed on both sides of Jefferson Road and bike space would be provided adjacent to the curb on both sides. Unfortunately due to funding limitations, construction is not scheduled until 2013.

”Regarding the current pedestrian facilities, we realize that a crosswalk for Jefferson Road on the west side of the intersection was omitted when the road was repaved. We had already planned on correcting this as part of our annual pavement striping contract for the 2006 season. The stop bar will be moved back to provide room for a crosswalk to line up with the existing multi-use path. It is our opinion that striping crosswalks for the east and north legs of the intersection is not warranted since there is no sidewalk system to connect to on the north side of Jefferson Road. These will be provided when we construct our project in the future...”

I can’t help noticing a few things. First, the much-needed sidewalks serving the Jeff-Town Line-John St. intersection won’t materialize for another seven years, assuming the funding comes through. By that time, Renaissance Square, now hardly more than a gleam in the blinkered eye of the bourgeoisie, will be showing its first signs of age and the business types will be tut-tutting about “under-utilization.” And over at the outskirts of Marion, a bunch more “accidents” will have occurred.

Second, for years to come, the lack of marked crosswalks on the north and east flanks of the intersection will remain an obstacle - and may tempt some people to take risks.

Looking over the scene the other day, I realized that pedestrians going from, say, the RIT campus to MacGregor’s Grill, which sits on the north side of Jefferson a couple hundred yards east of the intersection, will have to hoof it a long distance east or west of their destination to find an actual legal crossing.

The "great circle route" may work great for transcontinental air travel, but for pedestrians this sort of thing generally means "you can't get there from here."

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 14:44 EST
Updated: Friday, 31 March 2006 08:24 EST
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