University Circle focuses on dangerous crossings for students
Posted August 14, 2015 in Articles
Author: Alison Grant
Navigating the spaghetti bowl of converging streets at the base of Cedar Hill can be a headache for drivers, but for pedestrians it can be perilous.
Students pouring out of the bus and rapid stations headed to John Hay High School (and starting this fall, the new home of the Cleveland School of the Arts), are directed to make as many as six crossings with a total of 22 lanes of traffic to get to class.
"It's treacherous," said Vincent Lucic, who will be a senior at John Hay. Motorists "are in a rush to get to work," he said. "They are not happy to see us crossing."
Pedestrians do have a less dodgy route to get across Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and on to the schools. But it involves walking about a third of a mile, up to a crosswalk north on MLK Boulevard and back, adding about 7 minutes' walk on average, said Chris Bongorno, transportation consultant for University Circle Inc.
"When we get off the rapid we have to get to school. We couldn't really do that unless we want to be late every day," Lucic said.
University Circle Inc. and major institutions have been working with transportation consultant Nelson/Nygaard to come up with solutions to address this pedestrian hazard and others in Cleveland's vibrant but congested cultural, medical and educational mecca.
Phase one of the "Moving Greater University Circle Transportation & Mobility Study" dealt with parking supply and demand. Phase two, focusing on street improvements, pinpointed 11 sites where there have been a high number of crashes, some involving pedestrians and bicyclists (see map above). The sites also were chosen based on feedback from more than 650 participants at the outset of the study.
Planners decided to deal with seven of the worst intersections as soon as possible. Of those, four rose to the top as most critical. And among the four, there was general agreement that the first project to tackle should be creating a safer way to get from RTA's bus station and the new Cedar-University Rapid Stationto locations along Carnegie Avenue, including the high schools.
"It seems like everybody is making this a priority to get this done," Bongorno said.
The plan is to put the crossing at MLK Boulevard, west of the bus station, on a "road diet" by building out the curbs and reducing traffic from four to three lanes. Expanding the island next to bus station will help calm traffic and prevent cars from whipping around the corner onto the boulevard.
Also on tap is changing the traffic pattern for westbound motorists coming down Cedar Hill. Currently, one lane of the three-lane street allows right turns only, one allows traffic to continue straight through the intersection, and the middle lane allows traffic to either turn right or go straight.
The middle lane creates a "blind turn" for drivers who have a restricted view of the street when two cars are turning at the same time. "They're looking out for the other 2,000-pound vehicle that might side-swipe them," Bongorno said. Converting the center lane to straight-through traffic only would reduce the hazard, he said.
Any traffic changes will be flagged with signs well ahead of the intersection.
Changes to the boulevard crossing won't be in place by the time classes start Monday, but could be installed by the end of the year.
Other intersections at the top of the list for improvements -- most likely signal and crosswalk changes -- are Euclid Avenue/Ford Drive/Mayfield Road, Cedar Glen Parkway/Euclid Heights Boulevard and Euclid Avenue/East 115th Street.
Details on planned improvements will be posted online in September with the release of the phase two findings of the Moving Greater University Circle Transportation & Mobility Study.
"We want you to know you were meant to walk and bike here," Bongorno said.