City Council unanimously approves pedestrian safety resolution

Tuesday, February 21, 2017 - 11:10pm

Ann Arbor resident Kathy Griswold speaks about the importance of safe road crossings at a City Council Meeting in Council Chambers on Tuesday.

Ann Arbor resident Kathy Griswold speaks about the importance of safe road crossings at a City Council Meeting in Council Chambers on Tuesday. Buy this photo
Joshua Han/Daily

City Council unanimously passed a resolution to enthusiastic applause Tuesday night approving funding for improvements to the pedestrian crossing on Fuller Road outside Huron High School, where a high-school student was hit by a car and killed on his way to school in October.

Ann Arbor residents, and the citizen's advocacy group A2 Safe Transport, have frequently expressed frustration over the city's slow progress on pedestrian safety. A school safety report released by the city administrator earlier this month—weeks after planned release time—did not contain crosswalk evaluations or cost estimates as it was supposed to.

Ann Arbor resident Kathy Griswold, a member of A2 Safe Transport, said the resolution did not provide sufficient protection for pedestrians.

"This would be a perfect example of what not to do if you wanted to create a safe crosswalk," she said. "Engineering 101, you would fail if you did something like this. This has three lanes of traffic, no refuge island and, until recently, no street lighting. We deserve better."

The original text of the resolution called for the installation of a Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon on Fuller Road, and approved the $50,000 toward its construction, which City Administrator Howard Lazarus estimated would be needed. RRFBs allow pedestrians to activate flashing lights on crosswalk signs before crossing, alerting drivers to their presence.

Councilmember Chuck Warpehoski (D–Ward 5) proposed an amendment to the resolution during the meeting, however, adding the option to install another type of crossing device if deemed appropriate by city staff. The amendment passed unanimously.

"I believe that this is a crosswalk that merits some sort of active beacon," he said. "An RRFB is one of those most frequently deployed; I think it would make sense that that would be the most likely one we would see. But we have other beacons in our community — we have a HAWK beacon, for example, over by the YMCA on Huron Street."

High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk Beacons are elevated above the roadway, whereas RRFBs are posted on the side of the roadway. Councilmember Zachary Ackerman (D–Ward 3) pointed out, though, that HAWK beacons cost approximately $200,000 each — four times more than an RRFB.

Warpehoski said if city staff determined a HAWK was necessary, City Council would find the money for it.

"In terms of the question of a HAWK, or if there were more expensive treatment identified by the staff, I would trust staff to understand that we see this as a priority to be expedited, and if they need additional funds to come back to us for those additional funds," he said.

Councilmember Jane Lumm (I–Ward 2) responded to a memo Lazarus sent Monday to City Council requesting to delay the resolution, saying there was no valid reason to.

"Administrator Lazarus sent us a memo last night that mentioned a couple concerns related to this resolution that I'd like to speak to," she said. "While Mr. Lazarus did not mention his concerns when we met Thursday I do want to address and explain why in my view and the view of many residents, there is no valid reason to delay this action. The memo suggested we should wait because the exact location of the crosswalk is still being reviewed. That's fine. But it's not a reason to delay this resolution."