JACKSONVILLE — City leaders are talking about adding traffic safety lights and signs to crosswalks, less than a week after a vehicle struck and killed a local student.
Jacksonville City Council members appeared unified Monday in their desire to add traffic safety upgrades to city crosswalks to help prevent more pedestrian deaths. The talks come after a vehicle killed Justin Tinker, a Jacksonville State University student, while he crossed Alabama 204 on the Chief Ladiga Trail.
The council discussed crosswalk safety and possible upgrade options during its regular work session Monday. No action approving any upgrades was taken in the main meeting immediately following the work session.
However, during the work session, the council agreed that a committee should be formed soon to continue the discussion on safety improvements and develop a plan for the council to adopt at a later meeting.
“There are so many crosswalks and so many options, I think maybe getting a committee together will help keep this moving along,” said Mayor Johnny Smith.
Smith said he was particularly concerned about getting the Alabama Department of Transportation on board quickly if the council wanted to upgrade any crosswalks on state highways, which include Alabama 204 and Alabama 21. The council must have ALDOT approval before any traffic changes are made to state highways running through the city.
“It’s important we do something really quick for something on 21, since they’re about to resurface that, starting next month,” Smith said of the state.
The talk began with a short presentation prepared by Councilman Jimmy Harrell, an Alabama state trooper, that showed night photographs of crosswalks in the city. Each crosswalk, including the trail crossing near where Tinker died, had little to no lighting and poorly visible signs, Harrell said.
Harrell suggested several options for the crosswalks, including spot lighting and even lights embedded in the crosswalks that would blink when a pedestrian was using them.
Don Killingsworth, director of university relations at JSU, who attended the work session, said JSU supported the city in upgrading crosswalks, several of which are used by students daily to cross highways 204 and 21.
“It was a tragic accident and we appreciate the thoughts being done on this so quickly,” Killingsworth said. “Whatever we can do to push forward some changes, we want to help.”
Killingsworth noted that the university plans to soon adopt a safety campaign for current and incoming students regarding crosswalks.
“We want to make sure the campus is safe for students,” Killingsworth said.
Later during the main meeting, the council voted to spend more than $19,000 for Fire Department Station 2 plumbing upgrades.
Interim Fire Chief Keith Kadle said the station, located at 506 Chinabee Ave. Southeast, was built in 1985 and has had 12 water leaks in the last five years.
“This has been an ongoing problem and it’s been accelerating,” Kadle said. “It’s all galvanized pipe that has deteriorated.”
The piping is currently deep under the building and concrete. The upgrades would replace that with new piping lined along the walls and on the ceiling of the building to make it all more easily accessible, Kadle said.
Also during the work session, the council heard an update on the city possibly getting a shared bicycle program.
Casey Rhodes with Bantam Strategy Group, a Louisiana-based bike-sharing consulting firm, said the firm had solidified a deal to distribute 500 bicycles among various cities for use by residents. Rhodes said her firm was already in talks with Oxford and Anniston to give those cities bicycles by the spring.
Rhodes said the deal was with a company called LimeBike. The company provides the bikes free to cities, but charges residents $1 per 30 minutes to use them, she said.
Residents purchase time on the bicycles using a smartphone app provided by the company. A device locks the bicycle wheels in place when they’re not being used. All the bicycles are fitted with GPS tracking devices to deter theft.
“We should have an agreement coming soon for you to sign with LimeBike,” Rhodes said.