The construction along the seven Magnolia Avenue crosswalks between the North Donahue Drive and North College Street intersections is expected to increase awareness of pedestrians crossing the street and reduce the number of accidents.
“The construction is to put in some stamp concrete crosswalks along Magnolia from College to Donahue,” said Jeff Ramsey, city engineer. “They’ll be similar to the ones on Samford, but instead of being raised, they’re going to be the same elevation of the road.”
In addition to redesigned walkways, there will also be electronic signs placed at the two intersections to warn drivers of increased pedestrian activity ahead.
“Those stand-up ‘Stop for Pedestrian’ signs in the middle will go away, but there will be an electronic messaging sign as you enter (Magnolia),” said David Dorton, city director of public affairs.
These signs, a separate project, will promote pedestrian awareness as well as serve other functions such as informing traffic on game days.
“With the verbal message signs and the visual difference in the crosswalks, I think people will be more aware and hopefully watch out for pedestrians,” Ramsey said.
However, while city officials are optimistic, they are also well aware of the sobering realities of the situation.
“Obviously with the amount of vehicles on Magnolia and also the amount of pedestrians, you’re bound to have accidents,” Ramsey said. “There’s just so many opportunities for conflicts.”
The new stamp concrete crosswalks are anticipated to help cut down on these conflicts.
“I think any of the enhancements that are put on Magnolia that improves driver and pedestrian awareness probably helps in reducing any types of accidents that there are on Magnolia,” said Bill James, City of Auburn director of public safety.
Improvements to the road have been deemed necessary because of the increase of pedestrian-related auto accidents occurring along the street within recent years. In 2009, 11 pedestrians were struck.
“All of the work that we’re doing is intended to improve safety, to reduce the number of conflicts that could result in injury to a pedestrian,” said Auburn University master plan civil engineer Catherine Love. “It’s intended to make the crosswalks safer and to train pedestrians to use the crosswalks.”
Costs for the improvements are estimated to be $130,000.
The city is covering the majority of the cost.
“It’s a joint project,” Ramsey said. “The City of Auburn’s paying the first $125,000, and the University’s picking up any additional costs thereafter.”
Love, however, does not expect costs to go above the city’s budget.
“It’s anticipated to be well under that threshold where the University won’t have to put any money into the work,” Love said.
Neither Ramsey nor Love knew whether construction would affect tuition rates.
The last round of improvements took place in 2010 in the form of five generator-powered lights and brightly-colored signs along crosswalks reminding drivers to stop for pedestrians.
Despite the signs routinely being run over or blatantly ignored, the number of pedestrian-related auto accidents has reportedly declined, though accidents still occur. The last reported incident occurred April 27.
With this new round of improvements, both city and University officials expect drivers and pedestrians will become more aware of their surroundings and of the safety of those around them on Magnolia Avenue.
It is a matter of life and death.