Smith to Undertake Crosswalk Safety Improvements
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Concerned about the safety of pedestrians using the crosswalks that connect its campus along the highly trafficked Elm Street, Smith College will undertake a $250,000 program of crosswalk improvements, beginning in June 2010, designed to improve visibility and awareness for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.
The upgrades are based on recommendations developed by Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc., of Boston, a transportation planning firm hired by the college to study six major crosswalks along the busy thoroughfare. The firm has conducted similar projects for Yale and Rutgers universities, as well as for the college towns of Wellesley, Mass.; College Park, Md., and Berkeley, Calif.
As part of its process, the firm held focus groups last spring with a number of Smith and Northampton constituents, including city officials, residents of the upper Elm Street area and parents of students at the Smith College Campus School.
The project will encompass specific strategies tailored to the situation of each of the existing crosswalks located between Bedford Terrace and Harrison Avenue ranging from the installation of curb extensions to roadway restriping, new signage and the coordination of signal lights. The work will also involve slightly narrowing vehicle lanes, widening crosswalks and extending six-foot-wide bike lanes from the downtown to Northampton High School.
The work is expected to improve the pedestrian crossing experience by reducing crossing distances, correcting drainage issues, increasing visibility, increasing the crossing options and reducing vehicle speeds.
Smith is working in partnership with the City of Northampton to coordinate the upgrades. The first improvements will take place at the intersection of Elm Street and Harrison Road, followed by those at the intersections of Elm and Paradise Road, Round Hill Road, Henshaw Road, Prospect Street and Bedford Terrace.
In addition, Smith is planning upgrades to the two crosswalks on Paradise Road closest to Elm Street.
Of particular concern are the crosswalks at the Campus Center, which is a locus of student activity, and the one at College Lane, the designated entryway to the campus.
The high volume of pedestrians at the Campus Center’s crosswalk, coupled with a solar glare that interferes with visibility for drivers at recurring times of the year, make it a priority for improvements. As recommended, Smith plans to reconfigure the curb extensions to include drainage and reduce the crossing distance while narrowing the vehicle lanes. The college will also widen the crosswalk through restriping. All of the efforts are aimed at inducing motorists to slow down.
The study found that drivers coming from the west along Elm Street toward the Smith campus are more likely to be going fast than those approaching from the east (downtown). To slow them before reaching the Campus Center intersection, Smith plans to install a raised intersection at College Lane.
The consultants and the city’s Department of Public Works (DPW) concur that the raised intersection will not impede the efficient passage of emergency vehicles such as ambulances. In addition to the DPW, Smith officials received input on the plan from the Transportation and Parking Commission and the Board of Public Works.