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Waynesboro officials seek solutions to decrease pedestrian deaths

August 16, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

Waynesboro's new police chief can't explain why the town has had so many pedestrian accidents, but he can tell you what he wants to do about it.

On Mark King's wish list are countdown timers for crosswalks, bumped-out sidewalks, a program to raise drivers' awareness and specially lighted crosswalks. While financial restraints ultimately will shorten that list, King has been willing to listen to any ideas to improve safety on borough streets.

Borough leaders have met several times with representatives of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and are awaiting the results from PennDOT's Local Technical Assistance Program study.

King said the state representatives report no reasons or discernible patterns among the 44 pedestrian accidents in the borough since January 2004.

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Although the municipality has gone all summer without a pedestrian accident, King and others have been thinking about the schoolchildren who soon will be crossing streets again. Special thought has been given to the recently repainted and striped crosswalk on Pa. 16 as the hill crests at Fairview Avenue, a path used by children attending Fairview Elementary School.

"It's a bad location, but it's a necessary crosswalk," King said.

A PennDOT spokeswoman said Waynesboro consistently remains at or near the top of a list of "hot spots" for pedestrian accidents within PennDOT District 8, which covers eight counties with a combined population of 1.8 million people.

Devices that count down the amount of time left to cross the street at crosswalks will be installed when Center Square is reconfigured and Main Street traffic lights are synchronized in coming months, PennDOT spokeswoman Fritzi Schreffler said.

"At the square, they'll do bumpouts at each corner," Schreffler said.

Those "bumpouts" push the sidewalk further into the street at crosswalks.

"Drivers have the perception ... they're getting bottlenecked, and it makes people slow down," King said.

"Now, you can see the pedestrians beyond parked cars," Borough Engineer Kevin Grubbs said, saying they also cut 20 feet from the overall crossing, which is 50 feet on Main Street.

Schreffler said the borough would benefit from new technology that allows pedestrians to trip laser beams that then illuminate the crosswalk.

Those cost about $40,000 for each crossing, King said, but borough officials expressed hopes that they might find grant money for them someday. The street committee enthusiastically offered to serve as a test community for the lights.

"The state may want to have demonstration projects," Borough Manager Lloyd Hamberger said.

King said that police officers will be incorporating crosswalk awareness into the Smooth Operator program, which aims to cut down on aggressive driving. The onus is not just on the drivers, though, he said.

"People at crosswalks have a responsibility, too," King said.

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