Residents will soon have a safer way to cross one of Bolivar’s busiest streets thanks to a new crosswalk coming to the intersection of South Springfield Avenue and East Austin Street.
The crosswalk is just one project in a Missouri Department of Transportation regional focus on sidewalk improvements slated for 2021, according to Area Engineer Beth Schaller.
While the $1.7 million improvement package includes projects in Polk, Dade and Greene counties, “the majority of the work will be in Bolivar on sidewalks along Rt. 32 and Rt. 83, or Springfield Avenue,” she said.
“This package is focused on helping us meet our American Disabilities Act commitments to remove barriers to access on our existing sidewalks,” Schaller said. “This typically includes ramps, repairs to areas with large cracks and some widening of sidewalks to allow for better access.”
Schaller said the work on South Springfield Avenue will include ADA upgrades, as well as “two new pedestrian crossing improvements,” including the new crosswalk with LED flashing lights and street lighting just north of Austin Street.
She said traffic volumes are high on Springfield Avenue, with over 17,000 vehicles traveling the roadway each day.
Those volumes are why MoDOT plans to include signs with flashing LED lights, called a Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon, with the crosswalk.
“We have similar systems in place on Glenstone Avenue in Springfield and on Rt. 76 in Branson,” Schaller said.
She said pedestrians will push a button to activate the flashing amber lights.
“As with all crosswalks, by law motorists must yield to pedestrians using the crosswalk,” Schaller said. “The flashing LED lights increase the visibility of the crosswalk, but pedestrians should still look both ways and make sure vehicles have stopped before attempting to cross the roadway.”
The light system costs around $15,000, she said.
Schaller said MoDOT set the new crosswalk’s exact location based on the area’s existing sidewalks.
“To allow access for all pedestrians, it is important to locate a crosswalk where there are sidewalks on each side of the road,” Schaller said.
She said people will be able to walk on the existing sidewalks on Albany Avenue, cross Austin Street and then cross Springfield Avenue to reach sidewalks on the east side of the street.
“We are also adding pedestrian signal improvements to the south leg of the existing signalized intersection at Aldrich Road,” she added. “This is to allow pedestrians easier access to the sidewalks the city placed along Aldrich Road a few years ago.”
Schaller said the improvements are years in the making.
“The City of Bolivar has met with us several times over the past few years to discuss additional pedestrian features needed along Springfield Avenue,” she said.
Schaller said when it comes to adding a crosswalk on a state highway, this is par for the course.
“We normally receive requests from cities or concerned citizens,” she said. “We have staff dedicated to looking into traffic safety needs.”
She said MoDOT’s team looks at the suitability of the location, observes pedestrian activity and researches the history of motor vehicle crashes.
“This helps them determine if a crosswalk is needed and if the location is suitable for a crosswalk,” Schaller said.
Several factors determine a location’s suitability, she said.
“For example, the location needs to be clearly visible for both pedestrians and motorists, and it needs to allow for access by all pedestrians, so sidewalks need to be present on both sides of the street,” Schaller said.
In Bolivar, the main concern has been the lack of a crosswalk near Woods Supermarket, which sits near the intersection of Springfield and Austin, Schaller said.
“The grocery store, several restaurants and other businesses attract multiple pedestrians,” she said. “After studying the area, we determined that a pedestrian crossing was needed.”
On Tuesday, May 12, Bolivar’s board of aldermen voted unanimously to set up new street lights in the area to improve visibility at night.
Bolivar Public Works Director Jerry Hamby said four new lights will go on existing poles. The city’s monthly payments for the lights would be around $60 each month.
City administrator Tracy Slagle said the city has been asking for a new crosswalk in the area for a long time.
“This is the year that MoDOT will be coming through our community and looking to do some overlays and during that time, they’ll be looking for sidewalk areas that need to be modified to meet the standards for ADA compliance,” Slagle said. “And so it’s good timing for them to be working on this project since they’re already going to be working in the community on some of the streets.”
Schaller said MoDOT is “very happy that the city agreed to provide street lighting at the proposed pedestrian crossing.”
“This is a great example of working together to serve the community,” she said.
While the project is slated for 2021, Schaller said “actual construction in Bolivar will be dependent on the winning contractors order of work” because it’s part of a bundle of projects.