May 1, 2006
The 4th Street Downtown Mall crossing is now open to traffic. Cars can cross the east end of the downtown mall at Fourth Street. While business owners are smiling, not everyone is beaming from ear to ear. Many say it's a pedestrian mall and no place for vehicles.
“I'm a little bit concerned about the opening of the street prematurely before they got all the signs up. It’s very dangerous,” said pedestrian Jock Yellott.
The city put up signs saying “caution vehicle crossing” and one that lets drivers know to keep speeds down, but still pedestrians say its not enough.
“A pedestrian crossing sign would be nice right there in front, just so people that are driving up can realize that people are walking. It would make the people walking aware too,” said pedestrian Alex Caines.
“People don't realize that pedestrians have the right of way, so they see the stop signs...and they assume that it's a regular street and if they don't see any trucks coming they can gun it,” said Yellott.
The 250 businesses on the mall pushed for the crossing to open.
“We think it’s going to make it easier for our visitors to find us,” said Bob Stroh of the Downtown Business Association.
The 4th street thruway replaces the 6th and 7th streets crossings that were closed when construction began on the East end of the mall. Businesses said without the crossing, customers were getting lost; they couldn't find parking, and deliveries were difficult to make.
“I will continue to use it. It makes it more convenient to come here,” said Lori Whiffen as she drove across Fourth St.
But is it a question of convenience over safety?
“You've got little kids running up and down the mall and dogs walking back and forth. It makes it kind of rough,” said pedestrian Dennis Jones.
“Whenever you mix cars and pedestrians, the pedestrians are going to loose,” said Yellott.
The crossing is not permanent. The idea is being tested for one year and the city will look at pedestrian safety as well as business sales before making a final decision.
The new temporary crossing will be in effect 24 hours a day with the exception of closing at 5:30 p.m. during pavilion events.
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