City commissioners are being asked to find $50,000 in their tight budget to improve pedestrian safety on New Hampshire Street.
Leaders and patrons with the Lawrence Arts Center are requesting the city install a $35,000 pedestrian-activated traffic signal at the existing midblock crosswalk, after seeing multiple motorists drive through the crossing without regard for children or adults.
"They don't always stop, even with that sign in the middle of the street telling them to," said Linda Reimond, the pre-school director at the Arts Center. "In my opinion, it is a very dangerous situation."
Reimond and others are hoping that a full-fledged traffic signal will do a better job of getting the attention of motorists. David Woosley, the city's traffic engineer, said the site appeared to qualify for a light, if the city could figure out how to pay for it.
During a recent pedestrian count, about 115 pedestrians used the crosswalk during a one-hour period. Traffic volumes on that portion of New Hampshire are about 8,000 to 10,000 vehicles a day.
Woosley said his staff hadn't done enough research to know how often motorists failed to stop at the crosswalk. Reimond, though, said it was frequent. Reimond said she was nearly hit there recently. Despite being dressed in a bright red jacket - and standing 5-foot-9 - a car came within a few feet of striking her.
"I was all the way in the middle of the road," Reimond said. "If I wouldn't have stopped, I would have been hit. All it is going to take is for one child not to be seen."
The city's Traffic Safety Commission voted 8-0 to recommend city commissioners approve the traffic light.
Farther to the north on New Hampshire, a downtown bar owner is asking for a new midblock crosswalk between Seventh and Eighth streets.
Josh Mochel, owner of Jo Shmo's at 724 Mass., is requesting a $15,000 crosswalk that would be similar to the one near the Farmers' Market location in the 800 block of New Hampshire.
He said with several parking lots in the area, it was important to give patrons a safe way to cross the street. He said many people cross in the middle of the street to access a breezeway opening in the center of the 700 block of Massachusetts Street.
Woosley said he thought the street should be slightly narrowed at the crosswalk to cut down on the distance pedestrians must cross. But that would require the loss of nine on-street parking spaces in the area.
The city's Traffic Safety Commission was split - voting 4-4 - on the need for the crosswalk.
City commissioners have not budgeted for the $50,000 worth of improvements. Commissioners will discuss the issue at their 6:35 p.m. Tuesday meeting at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.