Students crossing cause of serious traffic jam

Leighann Seaman
Leighann Seaman

The crosswalk connecting the Engineering building and Science building has been a hinder on traffic for several years now, but has become a larger problem specifically in the last two years.  Vehicles can be backed up from one stop light to another on UAA drive under worst-case conditions.  The recent growth in student population means more foot traffic on the crosswalk, which leads to longer waits for yielding vehicles.  While there is a skybridge in place, students choose not to use it because it is strenuous to climb a flight of stairs with a full bag of books when the crosswalk is right there, especially in the fall or spring when the temperatures are finally warm.

The School of Engineering has conducted studies on this crosswalk, trying to find better ways for students to get across without blocking traffic.  However, Dr. Osama Obaza, who wrote the study, noted that, according to the setup of the road and crosswalk, there is no problem.  In other words, the road and crosswalk serve their purpose.

Chris Turletes, Associate Vice Chancellor Facilities and Campus Services, said the problem is due to “students crossing in a line, instead of bunching up and crossing together.”  According to Turletes traffic block up is worst in late spring and early fall between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. because of weather and shift changes at Providence Hospital. Turletes said it would be good to elevate awareness, and for students to cross together in a group.

“We usually receive complaints in the late fall from community members who travel in that direction,” Chief of Police Dale Pittman said. “[The traffic] has become exasperated over the course of the last two years as the campus has grown in population.”

With the recent addition of a Condominium nearby, the traffic has not gotten any better.

Turletes and Pittman agree that a flashing traffic light would give vehicles and students equal opportunities to cross, reducing some of the traffic.  In the past there have been arguments about whether it is the university’s job to install a light or the city’s.

“It’s a public road, so it’s always kind of been a city issue.” Bob Kniefel, a traffic engineer, said

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“It’s in the hands of the city now,” Pittman said, “They’ve agreed to put up traffic lights but haven’t done so yet.”

Kniefel is waiting on funds to put the lights up.

“What we would like to do is install a pedestrian activated flashing light,” Kniefel said, “some funds will be received in April 2010, so hopefully we will be able to have the lights up by next summer, if not, we will have to wait until the year after.”

Students were also asked for ideas to resolve this issue.  Turletes said that among the ideas were small changes such as leaving the heavy doors propped open, so students with full hands can easily get by and installing an escalator.  According to Turletes, the latter is much too expensive, while the former is “not a big enough change to make a significant difference.”

Pittman noted that in spite of bad traffic and a multitude of pedestrians, there aren’t many accidents on that road. Chris Turletes said that drivers are generally very cautious, so there is no reason for there to be an increase of accidents.

Traffic is less of an issue in the winter months, when the weather is so cold that the skybridge is the preferable method of travel.

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