Study offers safety for pedestrians

(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Parts of Jonesboro will soon be under a magnifying glass as part of a study.

Jonesboro and Little Rock are sharing a $100,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration.

In this study the two will concentrate on reducing pedestrian fatalities in areas where pedestrians' cross that have no traffic signals or crossing locations.

Director for the Northeast Arkansas Regional Transportation Planning Commission Erica Tait said several groups are working together to collect data.

"The study that we are hoping to do on Johnson Avenue starts in a Federal Highway Initiative," Tait said. The Federal Highway over the past few years has done a program called 'Everyday Counts," where they try to expedite the role out of innovations, transportation innovations, and various states through a State Transportation Innovation Council. I along with my counterpart in Central Arkansas Metro Plan are on the State Transportation Innovation Council."

Tait said they were able to apply what they see in problem areas of Jonesboro.

"As members of that, we kind of got to have some input in what innovations we deploy statewide," Tait said. "Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian is one of those innovations. As part of our input we had some local perspective. We knew there were locations in the areas we serve that had an issue with pedestrian safety. Johnson Avenue being one for us here along with North Church Street. We want to be a little proactive. We know there's residential and then there's Parker Park on the other side of the roadway and we want to try and be more proactive with that location. And then Cantrell Road in Little Rock."

Tait said Johnson Avenue is an area they've been looking at for a while.

"We know on Johnson Avenue, unfortunately, the city and MPO have studied Johnson Avenue before," Tait said. "In 2015 we contracted with a group out of Tennessee to conduct the study on Johnson Avenue just so we could know the flow of the pedestrian traffic. Where they were crossing, when they were crossing and how often. And so, we have that information for Johnson Avenue, but we're hoping to get some additional details about which of the proven counter measures to help pedestrians be safer at unsignalized intersections. We know Johnson Avenue has a number of these unsignalized intersections from that study where people are crossing often. So, we're looking at ways to enhance the safety along North Church and Johnson Avenue for pedestrians."

Five potential counter measures are Hawk signal, raised crosswalk, median refuge islands, and a couple of other signage options in conjunction with those other options as well.

Jonesboro resident Demarcus Williams moved to the area a little over a year ago. He said he often walks to the gas station closest to him.

"I stay just down the street at a set of apartments," Williams said. "I walk to the store because it's convenient and close and everything like that. Plus, I need things and it's the only station I got right now."

Williams said he's not alone when it comes to walking.

"There's a lot of us who walk to the store ourselves," Williams said. "They serve a lot of hot food and stuff so it's a main store people come to in this area, itself. 24/7, 24/7 up and down this strip mainly. Especially, around the college when the school is in. There be a lot of students that come here traveling. Get their little accessories, come through the store and then go about their way. So, it's a lot of traffic."

Williams said you have to be careful when it comes to traffic on Johnson Avenue.

"A lot of heavy traffic," Williams said. "From 18 wheelers to anything you can think of that can travel on a highway. There's a lot of traffic that comes through here. So, yeah, I'd say it's pretty dangerous. Especially like this little kid is crossing the highway. What's up, you know? You gotta be careful when you're out here that's for sure. You've got to pay attention."

Tait said the first step is to get the study underway.

Once complete, Tait said they will work to determine which option would be most effective to protect the vulnerable road users, but also to keep moving the traffic.

The Governor's Highway Safety Association reports more than 20 pedestrians were killed in Arkansas traffic crashes.

This is nearly a 17% increase from the year before.

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