CORTLAND — The state Department of Transportation is studying whether the city of Cortland should install a crosswalk on Tompkins Street at Prospect Terrace, possibly with installation next spring.
The study was not inspired by the Nov. 11 accident in which a SUNY Cortland student was struck crossing Tompkins at Frank Street, nearly a half mile away, but by research and lobbying by SUNY Cortland students.
The state Department of Transportation is conducting the survey of Tompkins Street traffic during normal traffic conditions, when its usage is busiest, to determine whether a crosswalk is needed at Tompkins Street and Prospect Terrace. Gene Cilento, the public information officer for the department’s Region 3 office, said that study should be completed in 2018.
Cilento also said the first step the city must undertake would be to install curb ramps at the crosswalk in the spring. The state Department of Transportation will install signage and pavement markings when that work is complete.
The Department of Public Works received an inquiry in November about putting a crosswalk at Tompkins and Prospect Terrace from SUNY Cortland health professor Alexis Blavos, along with a petition with 1,630 signatures from SUNY Cortland students. Some of Blavos’ students who are part of the Eta Sigma Gamma National Health Education Honorary society decided to make their advocacy project for the year about pedestrian safety.
The students started their work Oct. 20 with a Facebook survey to gauge student interest in a crosswalk at Tompkins Street and Prospect Terrace, and a week-long head count of people crossing the street to determine who is more likely to do so, students or residents.
Of 176 people observed over four days, 153 were students and the remaining 23 were residents. “We were working on this project when Sidney McGowan got hit,” Blavos said.
McGowan, 21, was stuck by a vehicle at 6:08 p.m. Nov. 11 and was taken to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse for treatment. Dim lighting and heavy traffic were cited as causes of the crash. The driver, Michael Hall, an employee with the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office, was not ticketed. McGowan was ticketed for jaywalking.
Nic Dovi, the deputy superintendent for the city Public Works Department, said that when the study is complete, the city will assist the department of transportation to implement the changes, if any are needed.
“The studies outline exactly how it should be implemented,” Dovi said, including what signs to put up and how the road should be striped.
A 2015 study of a Tompkins Street crosswalk in front of the YMCA concluded it wasn’t necessary because of its proximity to the Main Street intersection, located a few hundred feet away.
A 2006 study of Tompkins Street was done after three fatal accidents between 2003 and 2005. It reviewed the possibility of sidewalk improvements, a reduced speed limit, guardrails, crossways mid-block and installing additional lighting and signs.
The study concluded that lighting and signage should be implemented, sidewalk improvements be implemented depending on funding. However, it also found that a reduced speed limit, guiderails and crossways mid-block were not needed.