Gallatin city leaders are considering additional pedestrian safety improvements at five crosswalks throughout downtown.
Three different options were presented to members of the Gallatin City Council last month that would add flashing lights at two crosswalks on East Main Street near the Gallatin Public Library, two crosswalks on North Water Avenue near Swaney Swift's on the Square and one crosswalk on West Main Street near City Hall.
According to Mayor Paige Brown, most of the safety complaints the city has received from pedestrians have been related to the crosswalks near the library, which she described as the “biggest concern.”
“As a pedestrian, you feel like you’re stepping into a crosswalk, but if you’re a car coming down that road you don’t see the person about to step out there at all,” Brown told city leaders Sept. 22. “We’ve trimmed back some landscaping and we’ve done that regularly trying to help that, but it’s very narrow and people are just kind of hidden when they are about to step out there.”
One potential solution would be to embed lights in the road on each side of the crosswalks that would flash when activated by a pedestrian, according to Zach Wilkinson, superintendent of Gallatin Public Works.
Other options include adding rectangular flashing beacons that would act like a strobe light facing each direction on each side of the crosswalks or adding lights around existing crosswalk signs already in place near the sidewalks.
Currently, the city has signs in the road at the different locations to warn motorists of potential pedestrian traffic. While they have been in place for six years, Wilkinson said the signs are still regularly knocked down by passing vehicles.
“They are a maintenance nuisance, but from a safety standpoint they are effective,” Wilkinson told city leaders Sept. 22. “From a vehicular traffic standpoint, they do make it challenging to navigate sometimes.”
Of the three options presented, in-street lighting for all five crosswalks would be the most expensive costing an estimated $132,000 to install. The rectangular rapid flashing beacons would cost an estimated $84,000 while the flashing pedestrian crossing signs would cost an estimated $34,000.
According to Wilkinson, embedding the lighting in the road would be the “most effective and safest for pedestrians.” He added they are “pretty reliable” and should not require much maintenance if installed property.
“I really like the in-street lighting over all of them,” District 5 Councilman John D. Alexander said about the options. “(It) looks a whole lot better than the signs.”
Wilkinson said he is working with the city’s finance department to research potential grants and other funding options that could be used for the project, which he plans to present to council members next month.