2014-07-24 / Front Page

Concerns Over Faded Crosswalks

By Jacquelyn Moorehead

Dangerously faded crosswalks on Broadway are the most frequently cited concern among Newport citizens, according to an online survey by the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission conducted this May.

“When you can’t see the crosswalks, neither the pedestrian nor the driver knows what to do,” Commission Chair Chuck Flippo said. City Council formed the BPAC in February of 2013 to help make Newport a walking and biking friendly community.

However, after two pedestrian fatalities in crosswalks in January, the commission and council refocused on crosswalk safety. BPAC conducted a survey to find out where people felt most vulnerable crossing the street.

BPAC’s survey looked at 25 crosswalks and intersections used as representatives for all of the city. In a letter to the City Council, BPAC stated that in an initial review of survey results, residents repeatedly raised concerns over the need to repaint the “many faded and deteriorated crosswalk lines throughout Newport.”

Of the 25 crosswalks/intersections mentioned in the survey, most have clearly visible, if faded, markings. Much of the vulnerability appears to arise from a combination of area and traffic congestion, motorist disregard or distraction, and inattention on the part of both drivers and pedestrians.

In the past six months, Newport Municipal Court records show that 34 tickets were issued for failure to obey a stop sign, and 11 tickets for failing to yield the right of way in a crosswalk. The typical fine for not stopping at a stop sign is $85 plus court fees. State law also states that pedestrians have the right of way, unless leaving the curb to walk into the path of a vehicle so close that the driver does not have the chance to yield.

“It’s something that we need to pay attention to, “ Flippo added. “We will formally present our findings to City Council at its July 23 meeting.” Although it is a citywide concern, the most frequently cited location where crossers felt in danger was Broadway.

Broadway area residents have brought up similar concerns at neighborhood association meetings.

The six crosswalks on Broadway between City Hall and Equality Park have recently been painted, with the northern three done during the night of July 22. Road construction is intermittent from 212 Broadway to Newport Hospital, but unfortunately of the four crosswalks near the hospital, only two even offer any visible markings, making it extremely difficult to get to the facility unless you are in a vehicle.

Flippo admits the city is hesitant to re-stripe during construction, but said some of the fading is due to wear. “We want to make sure these are maintained to keep pedestrians safe,” he said.

A missing feature to the crosswalks is the green pedestrian signs that formally sat in the middle of the road. Flippo said the signs helped vehicles detect crosswalks and pedestrians sooner. “There is no magic bullet to make it safe for people to cross, but they seem to help,” he said.

Flippo said the signs are often stolen or damaged by drivers, but Second Ward City Councilor Justin McLaughlin said the signs are removed when construction begins.

“Someone takes them out of the street and they never reappear,” McLaughlin said. “Hopefully, they will reappear.”

McLaughlin said pedestrian safety in crosswalks has been a sensitive topic for years. “Before I was elected, I told the council that women with baby carriages cannot safely cross using the crosswalk.”

Still, McLaughlin said that according to the city manager, Newport is reluctant to repaint when it is unsure whether National Grid will be coming back to do more construction.

National Grid’s installation of a new gas main along Broadway is being cited as the key reason the crosswalks are not being repainted. “It is a priority for us for obvious safety reasons to repaint the crosswalks as soon as possible,” City Engineer Bill Boardman said.

National Grid’s three-part construction finished its first phase and crosswalks have been restriped from City Hall to Washington Square. With the second phase completed, Boardman said painting from 212 Broadway ( Waters Edge Florist) to Washington Square would be completed within the next few weeks.

Using higher quality paint may increase the longevity of the crosswalks, Boardman said, but for a lower price, a latex paint works just as well. The pricier paint, an epoxy, costs $2.79 per square foot, according to the Rhode Island Department of Transportation’s weighted average price. Latex cost 53 cents per square foot, a fraction of the cost for the epoxy. Of the two types, Newport prefers to use waterborne latex.

Boardman explained because the paint is waterborne it needs to be applied when the road surface is completely dry. For that reason, rain during the last few weeks has delayed any painting up until now. Another hesitation lies in the upcoming Broadway Streetscape project.

Flippo said that in addition to the survey, BPAC also addressed driver attentiveness and distracted driving enforcement. For now, Flippo offered advice for crossing. He said, “Exercise caution and pay attention to what is going on in the street.”

For comments or concerns about Newport crosswalks, email NewportBPAC@gmail.com.

List of Crosswalks in Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission Survey. • Admiral Kalbfus Road at

Girard Avenue • Admiral Kalbfus Road at

Hillside Avenue • Broadway at Miantonomi

Avenue/ Admiral Kalbfus Road • Broadway at Bliss Street • Broadway at Everett Street • Broadway at City Hall • Broadway at Marlborough Street • Spring Street at Touro Street • Memorial Blvd. at Chapel Street • Memorial Blvd. at

Bellevue Avenue • Memorial Blvd. at Spring Street • Memorial Blvd. at Thames Street • Bellevue Avenue at Kay Street • Bellevue Avenue at

Old Beach Avenue • Bellevue Avenue at Tennis Hall of Fame • Farewell Street at Van Zandt Ave. • America’s Cup Avenue at

Marlborough Street • America’s Cup Ave. at Long Wharf • America’s Cup Avenue at

Bowen’s Wharf • America’s Cup Avenue at

Bannister’s Wharf • Thames Street at Mill Street

(Queen Anne Square) • Thames Street at Perry Mill • Thames Street at Wellington • Thames Street at Morton Avenue • Carroll Avenue at Harrison Street

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