Getting from one side of the street to the other can be a dicey experience for Marietta College students who have to use mid-block crosswalks in order to cross Fourth and Butler streets on the college campus.
The city and college recently worked together to install high-visibility signage on the sides and in the center of both roadways to warn drivers when they're approaching the mid-block crossings.
"It helps, but you still have to be pretty wary before stepping out into the street. One girl was struck while crossing Fourth Street this year," said college sophomore Jason Long.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
A student steps into the mid-block crosswalk on Fourth Street adjacent to the Marietta College campus Wednesday afternoon.
Freshman Briana Kelley said the Butler Street crossing, located just below the crest of a hill between the Dyson Baudo Recreation Center and Dorothy Webster Hall, can be especially dangerous. Students are constantly crossing the street from the main campus to the dormitories and back again.
"We can't see oncoming cars, and they have a hard time seeing us," she said. "And sometimes drivers stop when we're crossing the street, but sometimes they don't. I've had some close calls. Sometimes you just have to run across."
Campus Police Chief Tom Saccenti said there was a push to install more visible pedestrian crossing signage after a couple of accidents this year.
A mid-block crossing safety review for the city of Marietta provides recommendations for safety upgrades at 11 locations, including the following crossings:
The 200 block of Second Street.
Fourth Street between Butler and Putnam streets, near the Marietta College campus.
Butler Street between Fourth and Seventh streets, near the Marietta College campus.
The Marietta Middle School entrance drive off of Seventh Street.
The Glendale Road and Hadley Lane intersection.
Fourth and Matthew streets near Marietta Memorial Hospital.
Colegate Drive near Jaycee Estates and Ewing School.
Crossings used by Marietta Middle School students on Glendale Road and Ephraim Cutler Drive near the new McDonald's.
Source: TEC Engineering, Inc., and Marietta Engineering Department.
"During the first two months we had two accidents on Fourth Street," he said. "A student was struck while crossing the street, and a professor's vehicle was rear-ended when he stopped for a pedestrian in the crosswalk."
The student was not seriously injured, but Saccenti said it was clear something had to be done to help prevent such accidents.
After visiting some other campuses in similar cities, Saccenti said it was decided to install the "yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk" markers in the center of the roadways at the mid-block crossings, as well as universal pedestrian crossing signs on each side of the street, alerting drivers that a crosswalk is just ahead.
The Butler Street signs went up on Wednesday, and the Fourth Street crossing signs were put up just before homecoming weekend in October.
"We're doing this, not just for the drivers, but for students, too," Saccenti said. "We want to highlight the locations of the crosswalks and encourage students to cross the streets at those locations."
He noted that state law requires drivers to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk.
"Once they step into the crosswalk, pedestrians always have the right of way," Saccenti said, noting that failure to stop is a chargeable traffic violation offense.
Marietta city engineer Joe Tucker said the campus crossings on Fourth and Butler streets are among several city mid-block crossings identified as areas of concern in a recent mid-block crossing safety review conducted by TEC Engineering, Inc.
Tucker said the signage at the Butler and Fourth streets crossings is a short-term fix for the problem. He said the safety review study recommends a longer-term solution that would include squaring and moving the Butler Street crosswalk to the crest of the hill to provide better sight distance for pedestrians and drivers.
There used to be two campus crosswalks in the 200 block of Fourth Street, but Tucker said one of those has been removed.
"In the long-range I would like to see that crosswalk moved closer to the center of the block and a speed table crossing installed with signage and push buttons for pedestrians to activate signals in a proper crossing," he said.
The engineering study identified a total of 11 mid-block crossings that need to be addressed within the city, including crossings in the 200 block of Second Street; Fourth Street between Butler and Putnam streets and Butler between Fourth and Seventh streets near the Marietta College campus; the Marietta Middle School entrance drive off of Seventh Street; the Glendale Road and Hadley Lane intersection; Fourth and Matthew streets near Marietta Memorial Hospital; Colegate Drive near Jaycee Estates and Ewing School; and crossings used by Marietta Middle School students on Glendale Road and Ephraim Cutler Drive near the new McDonald's.
Ewing School Principal Katie Keating said a lined crossing used to exist across Colegate Drive from the end of the school sidewalk to the IGA plaza. She said both students and elderly folks from nearby Jaycee Estates still cross Colegate Drive there, although the crosswalk lines were erased when the road was re-paved.
"There are no signs and no crosswalk now, but people cross the street in that area all day long," she said, noting that some of those people are on personal scooters or wheelchairs.
Keating said school officials would like to see the Colegate Drive crosswalk restored so that students and Jaycee Estates residents can cross the road more safely.
But the study recommends not locating a crosswalk there because there isn't enough sight distance for drivers turning onto Colegate Drive from Muskingum Drive, less than a block away.
The study suggests crossing Colegate at the signalized crosswalk in the Muskingum Drive intersection, or locating a crossing at a smaller intersection with Gregg Street about a block above the Ewing School entrance.
Tucker said he plans to share the final mid-block crossing study results and recommendations with city council's streets and transportation committee in the near future.