Study finds Providence crosswalk is safer than bridge

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COLUMBIA - Research has concluded that a signalized pedestrian crosswalk and 400-foot long median that replaced the footbridge over Providence Road is a safer alternative for pedestrian crossing.

The University of Missouri, City of Columbia, and PedNet Coalition did the study over two years. 

Providence Road between Ash and Worley Streets is a five-lane busy street that provides access to public parks, high schools and downtown Columbia.

According to a media release from MU, the study compared traffic speeds and pedestrian crossing behaviors before and after the project, which included demolition of an old footbridge, installation of the new crosswalk and pedestrian enhancements.

According to Sonja Wilhelm Stanis, a Parks, Recreation and Tourism associate professor at the University of Missouri, baseline data were collected during the second week of June 2012, and then repeated exactly one year later after completion of the construction project.

"Research has shown that access to parks and downtown communities is really important for health of communities, active living, and general health of the residents," Stanis said. "This is a situation where we had a really busy street that was dividing the community from parks and those resources."

Students around the area, however, expressed concern of their safety on the crosswalk, and many are not using it at all.

"People don't even use [the crosswalk]. People just walk across the street," Fredrick Douglass High School Student Shay Scott said.

"People don't wait for it to tell them to walk, they just walk," Rock Bridge High School student, Darion Smith, said.

Although some students don't agree, the increase in safe crossings was particularly apparent for youth. MU said the research team recently conducted a third set of measurements, and preliminary analyses indicates that the use of the crosswalk by local residents and adoption of healthier, more physically active lifestyles have continued.

A City of Columbia study found that the crosswalk also made an impact on how fast people drive on Providence Road. While the average speed fell slightly from 34.8 to 33.5 mph, there was a significant reduction in the number of vehicles exceeding the 35 mph speed limit, from 46 to 34 percent of all vehicles. The study also found vehicles traveling more than 10 mph over the speed limit fell from 3.4 to 1.8 percent.

Stanis and MU professor Stephen Sayers both told KOMU they hope this study can help find a solution to the crosswalk issue on College Avenue. This issue also involves mainly students who will be included in decision-making.