Some citizens and students of Columbia appreciate the new median on College Avenue, but others see it as a hazard and an inconvenience to pedestrians and drivers.
“As far as I can understand, the main purpose for the median being installed was to reduce the amount of student injuries with crossing, because it can be kind of deadly and dangerous,” said Austin Boland, a freshman from the University of Missouri majoring in Agricultural Economics. “If you look at it from that perspective, with that as their main goal, it has definitely succeeded and been beneficial.”
Bethany Smart, an MU sophomore nursing student who lives in the Christian Campus House on College Avenue, said that driving time has slowed down a lot more.
“It’s kind of hard especially when driving because when you want to make a left turn, you have to drive down the back roads,” Smart, said. “It (the median) has had a positive result. It’s good that people aren’t crossing the street back and forth (without using the crosswalks) like last year.”
However, the median also poses a threat for pedestrians when drivers do not understand how the new HAWK (High-Intensity Active Crosswalk) signals work.
“One lane will stop and realize that it is a two lane road, so one lane will stop and one lane will keep going and they get really angry,” Smart said. “I think it was a smart idea, it’s just not working the way they wanted it to.”
Boland agreed, “Sometimes the drivers, even though the light is red, will still just go if they don’t see anybody. So maybe if there is a kid coming from the side trying to hustle to beat the light, they might end up hurting them.”
Overall, Boland said, the new median on College Avenue has made it safer and has added to the beauty of campus.
Steven E. Sapp, public information specialist with the city of Columbia, said safety of pedestrians was a serious concern before the median was built.
“It got to the point to where people were starting to get concerned about the potential, if nothing else, of bad things happening when you have motor vehicles traveling 35 to 40, sometimes 45, miles an hour and a lot of people trying to cross on the street in kind of a chaotic fashion,” Sapp said.
He compared the situation to the old video game, Frogger.
Some members of the community have questioned why this particular system was selected.
“There are studies out there from communities and from the Federal Highway Transportation Administration that show that HAWK signals are more effective at midblock crossings than standard intersection crossings signals are,” Sapp explained.
One of the biggest concerns is the pedestrians using the crosswalk do not take the time to actually push the button while they are waiting for the signals to change. Sapp hopes for more education on the button usage.
Another concern from the driver’s perspective is the confusion about what the different HAWK signals represent. Sapp explained the following rules for the signals:
- The flashing solid yellow signifies the light is about to turn red.
- Solid yellow signal means the light is turning red in the next few seconds.
- Solid red means the driver is required to stop; this is when the white walk signal and countdown timer will begin for pedestrians to use the crosswalk.
- Alternating flashing red signal means if the pedestrian crossing is clear, the driver can proceed with caution.
“It’s going to take some time for people to get used to it,” Sapp said. “We appreciate people’s patience while we constructed it, and we hope that it does its job the way it was designed to do.”
The city will continue to monitor the situation and the Missouri Department of Transportation will be evaluating signal times.
“We will continue to tweak it to make it the best that it can possibly be,” Sapp said.