FRONT ROYAL – The town is continuing to consider a crosswalk on Shenandoah Avenue in the hope of reducing a rash of pedestrian-related traffic accidents in the area of the Shenandoah Motel.
Town Manager Joe Waltz said during a Monday work session that the proposed crossing, which would stretch from the motel to Speedway convenience store, has a $65,000 estimated cost.
This area of Shenandoah Avenue has been a focus of the town’s S.T.O.P.S. – Smart Towns Observe Pedestrian Safety – program, as many people often jaywalk from the motel to the gas station or restaurants.
Waltz said the crossing would include an island in the middle of the road, additional lighting and a “pedestrian hybrid beacon.” That beacon, he said, would stop traffic when activated by pedestrians.
He said the downside is that pedestrians “can go back and forth as many times as they want” and will “disrupt traffic.”
“There will be some feedback from commuters…but then again, I don’t know how often that will be used to know what the impact will be,” Waltz said.
Mayor Hollis Tharpe said saving one life is priceless but any decision affecting traffic will anger citizens. He added, however, that people already complain about pedestrians crossing the road illegally.
“People walk out into the turn lane, where people turn left and right and stop and stand. They’re pushing baby carriages and taking children with them. They’re doing it 24/7.”
Jacob Meza was the lone councilman to say that “I’m not willing today to sign off on it.” He noted that the town has discussed installing a traffic signal nearby the proposed crossing at the intersection of Shenandoah Avenue and 17th Street.
Waltz said if that light is ever installed, the beacon would probably be removed because it “would be in conflict with the traffic signal.”
Meza said he is also concerned at the potential precedent the crossing would set, noting that there are numerous areas in town where pedestrians jaywalk.
He added that the town has made crossing improvements on South Street, but he still observes pedestrians crossing the road illegally.
Meza said he wanted to know how much the crossing beacon would affect commute time on Shenandoah Avenue, one of the town’s busiest roads that about 20,000 vehicles travel daily.
Councilman John Connolly said the town should pursue the crossing but “I am curious if we have ideas about where the funding would come from.”
Tharpe agreed, saying he would “absolutely be in support” of moving forward but questioned how the town would pay for the materials.
Waltz said that “unfortunately” the only money the town could use is the general fund. He said the $65,000 would just purchase equipment and that town employees will perform any concrete and installation work.
Waltz noted that the equipment necessary to install the beacon will take 16 weeks to arrive once ordered. So even if the town finds money to fund the project soon, he said it would likely not be active until spring.
Councilman William Sealock, a longtime proponent of pedestrian safety, noted that having town employees install the crossing will save about $140,000.
Chris Morrison was absent from the work session.