City, university attempting to make crossing Chestnut safer for pedestrians

A woman heads to the Quincy University campus by crossing Chestnut between 18th and 20th streets on Friday afternoon. (H-W Photo/Phil Carlson)
Posted: Jan. 21, 2013 9:09 am Updated: Feb. 4, 2013 10:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

City and Quincy University officials continue to study ways to make Chestnut between 18th and 20th streets safer for pedestrians after a QU student was seriously injured after being struck by a car earlier this month.

Shannon L. Peters, a 19-year-old student from Elk Grove Village, remains in critical condition in the intensive care unit at Blessing Hospital, according to a hospital spokesman.

Peters was struck at about 6:30 p.m. Jan. 7 by a westbound vehicle while attempting to cross Chestnut about 350 feet east of the intersection at 18th Street. Quincy police continue to investigate the accident.

A student parking lot sits to the north of Chestnut, with dormitories to the south, and students often try to cross in the middle of the double-block, rather than using the marked crosswalk at 18th and Chestnut.

QU senior Brandon Cain, president of the school's student body, said the accident has raised awareness of the dangers of trying to cross busy Chestnut Street.

"Not everybody knows (Peters), but people who didn't even meet her have been affected by it, because we all cross this street," he said. "It's a matter of it being at the forefront of your mind now."

The Quincy City Council last week directed the city's Traffic Commission to study whether it is feasible to put a four-way stop at 20th and Chestnut and to install a streetlight. A speed study on Chestnut also was requested, as well as the possibility of painting a crosswalk at 20th and Chestnut.

"I think (a crosswalk is) something that would be helpful to have there," City Engineer Jeff Steinkamp said. "The city is looking at the area, taking the speed, pedestrian crossing and the traffic counts at that intersection."

Results of the studies will be discussed at the Feb. 11 Traffic Commission meeting.

A city employee was parked at 20th and Chestnut on Friday afternoon collecting vehicle traffic data and monitoring the number of pedestrians crossing the street.

"I can't say I've seen or heard anything unusual that you wouldn't see around a university or a high-pedestrian area," Steinkamp said.

Alderman Dave Bauer, D-2, said he was approached by a group of QU students that suggested the city look into installing speed bumps or speed cameras on that stretch of road. However, state law does not permit speed cameras in Adams County, and speed bumps are usually limited to some public parking lots and not allowed on through streets.

"They were looking to slow traffic down on Chestnut," Bauer.

There are stoplights on Chestnut at 12th and 24th streets, and a flashing light and a four-way stop at 18th Street. There is a 30 mph speed limit in that area, the same as most city streets.

Sam Lathrop, director of campus safety and security at QU, said there is a lot of foot traffic in the area because of the proximity to Woods, Gardner and Centennial halls. Students are being educated on the dangers of trying to cross the busy street midblock, especially because parking is permitted on both sides of the street, and that can limit visibility to oncoming traffic.

"Students that do drive often will park in the D parking lot, which is on the north side of Chestnut," he said. "So, naturally, there is a lot of foot traffic that goes back and forth there," even though pedestrians should always cross at intersections and not in the middle of blocks, he said.

Lathrop said even more pedestrians cross 18th Street south of Chestnut on a daily basis to access the C parking lot on the west side of the street.

"That whole strip from St. Francis School all the way down to 18th and Lind is a very busy pedestrian area, because a lot of our staff will park over there as well," Lathrop said.

Lathrop said the city and the university are working cooperatively to address pedestrian safety.

"Anything that comes up that brings our attention to an area where we can enhance the safety and partner with the city, we're in," he said.

Last fall, representatives of the QU student government asked the city to install east-west crosswalks at 18th and Lind, which the city did.

"If it's not the four-way stop down there, then at least something in place to prevent a future incident," Cain said.