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Concerns about pedestrian safety on Broadway prompts IU Northwest, INDOT meeting

INDOT rep says motorists not legally bound to stop for yellow flashing lights


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Media Contact

Erika Rose
Office of Marketing and Communications
981-4358
erikrose@iun.edu

Charles Sheid
Office of Marketing and Communications
980-6802
ccsheid@iun.edu

Amid continuing concern about pedestrian safety on the portion of Broadway Avenue (IN53) near campus, Indiana University Northwest administrators invited representatives from the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) to learn firsthand from the campus community about their concerns.

INDOT’s Jim Pinkerton, communication director, and Mike Yacullo, district traffic engineer for the LaPorte District; fielded questions and recommendations on November 29.

The university is limited in the action it can take to remedy safety concerns, since Broadway is a state road overseen by INDOT and not maintained by the university. This requires that any upgrades be made through a partnership with INDOT.

While those in attendance acknowledged the significant progress that has been made in cooperation with INDOT in recent years, they said it is time to take the improvements to the next level.  Improvements made jointly by IU Northwest and INDOT in 2010 -- a fence to direct pedestrians to crosswalks, a flashing strobe activated by pedestrians, and restriped crosswalks -- have been effective but are not enough, the group agreed.

In particular, a light that forces traffic to stop was predominant on the wish list. Other suggestions included the timing of existing traffic lights to hold traffic back when the pedestrian signal is activated, as well as an overhead pedestrian bridge and a concrete center island to act as a safe waiting place in the middle of Broadway, among others. Another suggestion was a light that could flash amber during non-peak hours and become a regular traffic light during peak hours of activity on campus.

INDOT officials said that in order to meet requirements for a traffic light, a study must be done to determine vehicular and pedestrian volume. They said that this would be revisited at the beginning of the Spring 2012 semester, when campus activity is at its peak. A follow-up meeting is planned to discuss the results of that study.

The INDOT representatives suggested that IU Northwest may wish to consider the possibility of a federal grant to pay for an overhead bridge, for which INDOT could issue a permit, but reminded administrators that it would need to conform to requirements of the American Disabilities Act (ADA) which would mandate a handicapped-accessible ramp in lieu of stairs.

Yacullo told attendees about a new kind of pedestrian signal, called a Hawk Signal, that could be a more feasible option in lieu of a stop light. Designed strictly for pedestrian as opposed to vehicular traffic, this option, Yacullo said, has fewer criteria to satisfy than a traditional stop light. This option would give drivers a legal obligation to stop rather than trusting them to observe the pedestrian right of way. Pinkerton noted that the Hawk Signal is so new that there are none in Indiana right now.

Attendees raised concerns over other factors that pose dangers while crossing Broadway. Darkness and harsh weather concerned the attendees, as well as the possibility that crosswalks are potentially confusing for drivers.

Professor of English George Bodmer, Ph.D., who suffered serious injury when he was struck while crossing Broadway two years ago, is concerned that the current measures provide a false sense of security for pedestrians.

“I see people going across and people are confused, both in the cars and the pedestrians,” Bodmer said. “I’m afraid it’s creating a false sense of security because I am seeing dangerous situations. . . . People continue to be struck and I just fear that the real impulse to finally fix it is only going to happen when one of us is killed.”

Chancellor William J. Lowe assured INDOT officials that “we won’t let this go.” Citing the uniqueness of the campus and its presence in Gary, he stressed the importance of improving pedestrian safety measures surrounding the campus. He said that on Broadway, at least between Downtown Gary and Rt. 30 in Merrillville, IU Northwest is the place with the heaviest vehicular and pedestrian traffic, which deserves consideration. 

IU Northwest officials plan to meet with INDOT officials once a new traffic study has been conducted early next year. Lowe asked them to make sure that, among the recommendations they bring back, there should be one that involves drivers’ obligation to stop and yield to pedestrians.

In the meantime, IU Northwest will continue to remind the campus community that traffic safety at IU Northwest is everyone’s responsibility. All motorists and pedestrians are encouraged to use caution when driving or walking along the streets adjacent to campus. Pedestrians are encouraged NOT to text or use cell phones while crossing the street, and they should only cross at designated locations in accordance with all traffic-control devices.

Pedestrians should never assume that all traffic will stop at the yellow flashing LED lights at 34th and Broadway. Even after activating the lights, pedestrians should look both ways and make eye contact with drivers to ensure that they have been seen and that the vehicles in all lanes are stopping at the crosswalk.