January 22, 2022

Better safe than sorry

City, state work to add crosswalk at busy Tompkins Street intersection

Nick Graziano/contributing photographer

Cortland Public Works employees Brian Horner, left, and Larry Hill, right, remove dirt Monday afternoon from the curb at the corner of Prospect Terrace and Tompkins Street. The city and state are working on a project to create a crosswalk to improve safety at the busy intersection.

A new feature is being created along Tompkins Street in Cortland: a series of thin lines crossing the road, but means one thing — safety.

The state Department of Transportation is working with the city of Cortland to install pedestrian enhancements at Tompkins Street and Prospect Terrace, said Curtis Jetter, a regional spokesman for the DOT.

“DOT will be installing a new enhanced crosswalk across Tompkins Street, as well as high-visibility signage with reflective strips along the sign post,” Jetter wrote Monday in an email.

No signal lights will be installed at the crossing at this time, Jetter said.

On Monday morning, Cortland Public Works had closed off the sidewalk running along the south, or clocktower building, side of the road between Main and Owego streets.
By early afternoon, public works employees had already dug up a portion of the curb at Prospect Terrace and Tompkins Street.

People planning to use the sidewalk are asked to use the sidewalk on the north side of Tompkins Street until work is complete.

Nic Dovi, deputy public works supervisor for Cortland, has said the city is working with the DOT to not only install a crosswalk but also install Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalk ramps on Tompkins Street at Prospect Terrace.

All work being done is to enhance pedestrian safety, Jetter said.

“We (SUNY Cortland) are very excited to see it happening,” Fred Pierce, a spokesman for SUNY Cortland, said of the crosswalk.

Students at SUNY Cortland deal with crossing the intersection on a daily basis, which has seen traffic increase over the years, Pierce said. More student residences have been created in houses south of Tompkins Street.

The city plans to have its portion of the work, the sidewalk and curb redesign, done by Thursday at the latest, Dovi has said. Jetter said the DOT expects to finish its work before the end of fall.

The state DOT began studying whether the city of Cortland should install a crosswalk on Tompkins Street at Prospect Terrace last year. That came shortly after a Nov. 11, 2017, accident in which a SUNY Cortland student was struck crossing Tompkins at Frank Street, nearly a half-mile away, but that wasn’t the influence for the study.

The Cortland Public Works Department also received an inquiry last 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.

A 2015 state 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, guardrails and crossways mid-block were not needed.