JACKSONVILLE — The state’s transportation agency plans to add traffic safety upgrades this spring to a crosswalk where a car recently struck and killed a local student.
The project is part of the Alabama Department of Transportation’s plan to install new lighted signs and pavement markers at crosswalks on state highways near Jacksonville State University and the city’s downtown square, an agency spokeswoman said Tuesday. Meanwhile, a committee of city, state and JSU officials expects to recommend crosswalk safety improvements to the Jacksonville City Council at its next meeting. The action around crosswalk safety comes less than a month after a vehicle killed JSU student Justin Tinker while he crossed Alabama 204 on the Chief Ladiga Trail.
In a Tuesday email to The Star, Linda Crockett, spokeswoman for ALDOT, wrote that the agency plans to install conspicuously lighted signs near crosswalks on Alabama 204 and Alabama 21 near the JSU campus and the city square.
“We are also planning to install solar pavement markers along crosswalks near the school and town square,” Crockett wrote.
Crockett added that upgrades to the Alabama 204 crosswalk are set for completion in early May. The crosswalk improvements for Alabama 21 won’t be made until after the scheduled repaving of that highway, set to start in May, she wrote.
City Councilman Jimmy Harrell, an Alabama State Trooper who has spearheaded the crosswalk safety improvement effort since the accident, updated the council on the safety committee’s work during its regular work session Monday.
Harrell said that at this time, some crosswalks in the city should take precedence over others, based on their use and locations.
“Anything around the Chief Ladiga Trail I think should be improved ... we want to make those as safe as possible since the Ladiga brings in a lot of people,” Harrell said.
Harrell said he hoped the city could work with Alabama to add more street lighting to the Ladiga crosswalk. Crosswalks on Alabama 204 and Alabama 21 near JSU campus should also take priority, Harrell said.
ALDOT installed new crossing lights with new traffic signals at intersections along Alabama 21 last year. Still, there are some crossings on Alabama 21 which don’t have traffic signals, such as the crosswalks in front of Brewer Hall and Merrill Hall.
“Both are large crossings with four lanes of traffic, I think there’s absolutely a need,” Harrell said.
Harrell said he’d like to see more street lighting and caution lighting installed in the roadway along those crosswalks.
Stewart Miller, a freshman and member of the JSU golf team, said he liked the idea of crosswalk upgrades to improve safety for pedestrians and drivers.
“I feel uncomfortable on both sides, driving and walking at night,” Miller said of traveling on parts of Alabama 204 and Alabama 21.
Miller said he prefers the crosswalks at the University of Alabama, which he uses when visiting friends.
“On every single crosswalk, they have lights on them and signs with blinking lights,” Miller said.
Daniel Pico, a junior and Miller’s teammate, said he uses the crossing where Tinker died every day and night to get to travel in between campus and his apartment.
“I always stop and wait until there’s no cars before I start walking,” Pico said. “At night when I walk there, I feel like I can’t see everything.”
David Thompson, director of capital planning and facilities at JSU, said the university would soon test safety upgrades to campus crosswalks. Thompson said he’d already ordered reflectors to install at a campus crosswalk in the next few weeks. Also, the crosswalk will be repainted red and white to help it stand out, Thompson said.
“Right now we’re testing, and if it looks good with this crosswalk, the university might do the rest,” he said.
Thompson noted that JSU didn’t just start thinking about traffic safety improvements on campus after Tinker’s death.
“We’ve been trying to improve lighting and crosswalk safety every year,” he said.