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City should take lead on pedestrian crossing project

A plan to improve safety for pedestrians attempting to cross Hwy 64/ Broadway Ave. in the city of Medford should be funded through the city budget and not be dependent on civic club fundraisers.

Last week members of the Medford Morning Rotary Club presented a plan to partner with the city to have pedestrianactivated flashing signs installed at four crossings along Hwy 64/Broadway Ave. in Medford with a total combined price tag of under $30,000.

Currently, pedestrians are expected to take the ludicrously dangerous action of stepping into the roadway to signal their intent to cross the busy state highway. Once installed, the signs will allow pedestrians to safely signal their intent to cross the road by pushing a button and activating a set of high visibility flashing LED lights.

Club members presented the comprehensive 27-page report that detailed installation options, identified vendors and gave an overview of possible expenses related to the project. They also laid out a fundraising timeline to pay for the bulk of the cost with the goal of having the signs installed and paid for by next August. They have been working on the project since September following a meeting coordinated by the Chamber of Commerce with the mayor, police chief and a local daycare provider.

Rotary members are to be commended for the work they have done in identifying this public safety problem and coming up with a practical and reasonable solution. With all the groundwork laid, the city of Medford should move forward with implementing the plan and paying for the signs through city tax funds rather than community fundraisers so that the signs can be in place and useable as swiftly as possible.

There is little doubt that businesses and individuals in the community would step forward to cover the cost of the signs. The reality is they don’t have to, nor should they be expected to do so. Thanks to good fiscal management, the city of Medford has sizable reserves totaling millions of dollars. Reserves that will be added to at the end of the year as unspent tax dollars are put into the various city savings accounts. The council could easily direct that carryover funds be used to pay for an investment in public safety with little to no impact on city finances.

Rather than spending their time coming up with fundraisers to pay for what is a legitimate city taxpayer expense, Rotary members and others should instead put that time toward seeking legislative intervention to allow the re-establishment of a mid-block crossing between the Medford Area Middle School and Immanuel Lutheran, near the entrance to the middle school’s parking lot. This is the obvious and safest place for a crossing in the area and is far more practical than directing people to 4th Street. Just because the bureaucrats at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation don’t want mid-block crossings doesn’t mean it is not the best option given the conditions in that area. It will take community leaders in the Rotary Club and others contacting state Sen. Jerry Petrowski and Rep. James Edming to make that happen.