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City to study walking, driving safety (01/19/2014)
By Chris Rogers

Photo by Chris Rogers
      Julie Sammann (left) and Jan Erwin (right) watch for cars while crossing Broadway at Johnson Street. The pedestrian crossing signs like the one at the intersection cost around $300. In recent months City Council members have been calling for reconsideration of old plans to add more of them.
The way Winonans walk and drive may change as result of discussions moving forward at Winona City Hall. Is it time to change Winona's uncontrolled intersections? Should the island city invest in pedestrian crossing signs?

After months of calls for pedestrian safety improvements on Broadway, city staff announced a report on citywide traffic will be presented to the council by the end of next month. How much information on pedestrian traffic will be in that report is unclear at this time, but it will address another long-standing discussion the mayor is reintroducing: intersections without any traffic controls.

"I've been concerned for a long time about the uncontrolled intersections that we have here in Winona," Peterson said, who has mentioned the issue at past meetings. "I don't know of any other community I've been in that has uncontrolled intersection like we do." Native Winonans know to keep an eye out for cross traffic at the signless intersections, but visitors may not, he pointed out. "I'd like to know how many intersections aren't controlled [and the] accident counts at those intersections to see if it is really an issue," he stated.

After further calls from the council at its January 6 meeting for a study of pedestrian safety on Broadway, City Manager Judy Bodway announced plans for the upcoming citywide study. Details were limited. In an interview Bodway said the study would not gather new data, but rather rely on past information such as vehicular traffic counts and examine "where it's appropriate to have certain controls, and where it would not be." Bodway explained that the study is being done at the request of Winona Mayor Mark Peterson, in response to his concerns about signless intersections. City staff could not provide further details on what information the study would include.

Council asks again for pedestrian study

After a 74-year-old woman was struck by a car at Broadway and Liberty Street and seriously injured late last November, council member Pam Eyden asked city staff for a report on pedestrian safety along the length of Broadway. Several other council members joined her in expressing concern.

At the January 6 meeting, Council member George Borzyskowski reiterated the directive to city staff, asking for a study of pedestrian safety on Broadway and recommendations for action.

Borzyskowski said that the intersections of Broadway and Liberty Street and Broadway and Hamilton Street were among the "problem spots" on Broadway and said, "With the increased traffic today and people kind of refusing to slow down, maybe it's time to do traffic control."

In an interview, Bodway said that city staff felt it was more appropriate to look at the "big picture" of traffic flow across the city than to focus on problem areas.

Discussions of pedestrian safety and adding crossing signs are not new. The Planning Commission discussed pedestrian safety and crossing signs in 2010, and voiced support for adding signage at the most heavily used pedestrian crossings. Current commission chair Craig Porter proposed a map of more than 50 intersections that he felt were the highest priority for pedestrian improvements. The commission discussed small pedestrian crossing signs that sit on the centerline, such as the sign at Johnson Street and Broadway, among other ideas. City staff noted budget constraints the small signs cost as much as $300 each and presented maps of vehicular traffic counts throughout the city indicating that many of the sites of proposed pedestrian signage were also some of the city's busiest streets. The sign at Johnson Street and others in the area were installed, but discussions of adding signs at other locations never continued, according to Assistant City Planner Carlos Espinosa.

The council "should refer back to our map and get serious about putting up more [signs]." Porter said last Monday.

Eyden said that Broadway and Second Street both are barriers to pedestrian traffic in Winona. Council member Michelle Alexander has supported small crossing signs, but not more stop signs or traffic lights. Pedestrians interviewed at Johnson Street and Broadway agreed crossing Broadway was problematic but had mixed feelings about signs.

"We're always inching across because we don't know if both lanes are going to stop," said Winonan Julie Sammann of Broadway and Johnson Street.

"I've seen good examples and bad," Winona State University (WSU) student Dan Sliwa said of motorists' willingness to stop for pedestrians. "More pedestrian signs would be a good thing," he added. Sliwa was blunt about the role his fellow students play in pedestrians' troubles. "There are a lot of students here who drive and they're oblivious," he said.

A man who declined to have his name printed said he was almost hit by a vehicle while crossing Broadway last week, but he did not think pedestrian signs would change anything.

When asked about pedestrian safety on Broadway, Mayor Peterson said, "Obviously it's a concern, but there's some personal responsibility here, too, I think. I see an awful lot of student traffic that walks across Broadway, I can't tell you how many times you see people walk out in front of a car and they don't look.

"You just told your breath sometimes." 


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