City should invest in pedestrian safety
The city of Medford should include funding for three sets of pedestrian-activated warning lights on Hwy 64 as part of its 2021 capital projects budget that will be presented to council later this month.
Pedestrian-activated warning lights would be best placed by Strama’s Service Station at the crossing of the path that leads to the school complex; in the downtown, either at the Wisconsin Ave. or Main Street intersections; and mid-block between Fourth St. and Seventh St. by the Medford Area Middle School. With an estimated price of between $5,000 and $10,000 per crossing location, the total price tag should not exceed $30,000. To put this in perspective, this is roughly the amount the city spends on a new pick-up truck for the public works department. With the option on having the LED signs run on solar power, the ongoing maintenance of the crossings is negligible.
The lights were proposed by police chief Chad Liske during a special meeting with stakeholders last week as a possible solution to ongoing safety concerns of pedestrians attempting to cross the busy road. The issue is a reoccurring one in the city that resurfaces every few years only to be handled at the staff level without making it to the full city council.
Chief Liske said past efforts to have signs in crosswalks themselves, or larger static pedestrian crossing signs had limited long-term impact because over time they would fade into the background for motorists. The proposed signals have the advantage of only being on when activated and flashing in a pulse pattern similar to police squad cars that allows for high visibility.
The pedestrian-activated signals are by far the most practical and cost effective solution considered to improve pedestrian safety along the road. Other piein- the-sky proposals such as pedestrian overpasses carry too high a price tag to warrant serious consideration. Likewise proposals to have increased law enforcement presence on the roads takes those officers away from other duties. In the current employment conditions it is impractical to hire additional staff to serve solely as crossing guards.
Under state law, motorists must yield to pedestrians when they are crossing the road at designated crosswalks. First, pedestrians must signal their intent to cross the road. The state recommends doing this by placing feet out onto the roadway and waiting until traffic stops. Given the relative size of cars and trucks, especially in relation to younger pedestrians, displaying intent can be a dangerous activity. Pushing a button and waiting for traffi c to stop is a far better and safer option.
While the willingness of civic groups to step forward and raise money for the project is noteworthy and a credit to those organizations, as Ecclesiastes 3 teaches “to everything there is a time and a purpose.” There is a time for brat fries and bake sales. There is also a time for taxes and budgets.
Community fundraisers are a great way to raise money for projects that make a community a better place to live, work and play. These include things like fishing piers, holiday light displays and park upgrades. However, when it comes to the safety of children, senior citizens and other pedestrians crossing busy roads, public officials must not waste time with fundraisers and instead take action.