FRONT ROYAL – At least two more pedestrian-related incidents in town occurred in recent days even as officials say safety initiatives show promise.
Town Council heard an update from the public safety committee at a work session Monday. The number of pedestrian-related crashes increased from three in 2014 to 12 in 2017, according to the presentation from Town Manager Joseph Waltz. Data provided to council members showed that the number of pedestrian-related incidents remained unchanged at 12 in 2018.
Waltz said by phone Tuesday he knew about the two incidents that occurred over the weekend but had not been made aware of any others. He said he didn’t have enough information to talk about the other incidents.
“Spring is a very active time for us with pedestrian incidents,” Waltz said.
The town started a pedestrian safety program to address the problem through public education, infrastructure improvements and new jaywalking regulations.
The town plans this year to:
• Upgrade an existing warning sign that alerts motorists to a crosswalk on South Street.
• Install a new warning sign on South Street near Hill Street.
• Make improvements to pedestrian-controlled intersections at North Royal and 6th streets and at South Royal and Jackson streets.
Last year was the deadliest year for pedestrians in the United States since 1990 with 6,227 killed – 123 in Virginia, according to the presentation.
“It was brief but I just wanted to let everyone know what we’re doing, and it’s still an important topic that we need to bring out to the public about pedestrian safety,” Waltz told the council.
Statistics show that pedestrian-related incidents occurred around dusk and dawn during heavy-traffic times, Waltz said. Data show more incidents occur on South Street than anywhere else in town, hence the reason for the focused effort to improve safety on this street, he added.
But North Shenandoah Avenue also poses safety challenges. Town officials considered installing a crossing on the road at an estimated cost of $60,000 but Waltz told the council that there is potential development of a gas station on the site of the Shenandoah Motel, which is for sale. Such a development likely would require the construction of a new traffic signal that could help the town solve the problem of pedestrians crossing the street, he said.
“So we’re still keeping that area in our sights and trying to do some improvements,” Waltz said.
Lighting affects pedestrian safety, he added. Town officials want to extend the lighting from the U.S. 340-522 bridge south along North Shenandoah Avenue to 14th Street, Waltz said, adding the town would replace the light fixtures with those installed on the bridge.
Lighting improvements on Shenandoah Avenue could cost about $200,000, Waltz said Tuesday, noting that the town is looking for ways to pay for the project but has not yet received any grants or other sources of free money.
Vice Mayor William Sealock serves on the Public Safety Committee and cited at the work session the lights as the “big-ticket” item that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. He noted that pedestrian-related incidents have stabilized.
Interim Mayor Matthew Tederick and council members Chris Holloway, Eugene Tewalt and Letasha Thompson attended the work session. Councilmen Gary Gillispie and Jacob Meza did not attend the meeting.