ALDOT announces changes to JSU highway after student's death

[Yahoo News] ALDOT announces changes to JSU highway after student's death

Nov. 16—JACKSONVILLE — The Alabama Department of Transportation has responded to college students' plea for a safer crossing area on a section of Alabama 21 through the campus, according to authorities.

New primary crossing points will be created at the intersection of Alabama 21 and Skelton Street and the intersection of Alabama 21 and Alabama 204 and new traffic lights will be installed at Skelton Street, according to an ALDOT press release.

After the street work is completed, ALDOT says, the crosswalks currently in front of Jacksonville State University's Brewer Hall and Merrill Hall will be eliminated.

The changes are planned following the death Nov. 4 of 22-year-old JSU student Leah Grace Tarvin, who had been struck by a vehicle on the busy highway Nov. 2.

Officials say the road changes and construction are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Student response on ALDOT "Report a Concern" portal online may have played a role in the movement plans, said university police Chief Michael Barton.

"As a result of these efforts, and the JSU administration's dialogue with state officials over the past week, action is being taken," Barton stated in a release.

ALDOT representatives including Transportation Director John Cooper on Monday last week met with university President Dr. Don Killingsworth and Jacksonville Mayor Johnny Smith to talk about changes ALDOT would make to Alabama 21 in front of Brewer and Merrill halls.

"JSU and the City of Jacksonville have further requested that ALDOT conduct a comprehensive analysis of the other crosswalks along Highway 21 and Highway 204 to ensure the maximum safety features are in place with the latest technology available," Barton said.

The university along with officials from the city of Jacksonville have assembled a task force to brainstorm ideas on possible recommendations to ALDOT and to propose further improvements for pedestrian crossing, according to Barton.

"We're glad to see that improvements are being made to make local streets safer, for sure," said Jacksonville public information officer Ben Nunnally. "The new setup will put crosswalks at nearby intersections and remove the mid-block crosswalks, which I personally am glad to hear about. I used to cross the highway there for classes about 10 years ago, and nothing ever went wrong for me on the crosswalk, but it felt higher-stakes than some of the smaller crossings elsewhere."

Students and community members have taken to social media to voice their concerns that simply moving the crosswalks will not be enough, with several people calling it a "band-aid fix." Many have suggested a pedestrian overpass as an alternative. It's not a new idea.

As far back as 1975, The Anniston Star reported at the time, a heavy volume of pedestrian traffic crossed at the intersection in front of Merrill Hall, and university officials sought some sort of relief. The newspaper reported in March of that year that a $300,000 highway construction project to build two separate pedestrian overpasses was canceled after further evaluation of the project.

"The highway department conducted a safety survey also and they felt that after the overpasses were constructed, cars would travel faster on the highway and create more of a hazard," University President Dr. Ernest Stone told The Star in 1975.

Once the overpass plans were more fully drawn out, however, Stone said he believed that would not be the best option, for a variety of reasons.

The idea was brought up again in 2010 after the university received federal funding that was allocated towards building the raised crosswalk, but was put on hold after an economic downturn.

An ALDOT spokesman had no comment regarding any plans to build a pedestrian overpass.

Contact Staff Writer Ashley Morrison at ashmorrison1105@gmail.com. On Twitter @AshMorrison1105.

Source: Yahoo News