Pedestrian safety studied during downtown walk

Elkins City Council’s planning commission joined Ronald Eck of the West Virginia University Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering for a Friday afternoon “walkability” tour of downtown.

The goal of the walk-around was to “analyze how pedestrian friendly the downtown is,” City Clerk Sutton Stokes said. “Many residents updating the city’s walkability will contribute to the city’s comprehensive planing process.”

Mayor Van Broughton, several council members and other concerned citizens joined Eck at City Hall. From there, they headed to the Elkins Train Depot. Along the way, they pointed out the cars speeding, going more than 30 mph on Railroad Avenue, which had a 15 mph limit.

They also noticed trees and shrubs blocking cars attempting to turn. Stop lines and crosswalks were also creating dangerous scenarios.

Eck called the street in front of the Depot “an asphalt jungle.” He suggested that reflective beads be placed on the crosswalk.

The group discussed how to deal with the wide-open space in front of the depot. The planning commission felt it has become a dangerous obstacle course for train occupants who want to explore downtown. One popular idea was to slow down traffic by creating a round-about with a fountain in its center.

As the group continued through downtown, they found similar problems: not enough stop signs, misplaced stop lines, not enough cross-walks, misplaced cross walks and obstructions preventing cars from making safe turns.

The group walked along Randolph Avenue near the entrance to the Elkins City Park and Davis & Elkins College. Several people pointed out there is no cross walk to allow pedestrians to safely cross the road at that point.

Councilwoman Nanci Bross-Fregonara said, “There is no easy way for the students to cross.”

Councilman Joseph Sabatino, who has a background in city planning, was trained in Canada where they stress the creation of wide open areas by trimming trees and raising the height of signs to help citizens escape crime.

Sabatino’s unique input was valued by the other participants throughout the day. Alice Sabatino, also a member of the commission, joined the walking tour and helped record the issues discussed.

Others in attendance included Charlie Jordan of the planning commission. Jordan has been involved in drainage issues for years, and hopes to help City Council improve Elkins. Councilman Gene Ochsendorf also participated in the walking event.

In the end, officials felt they had taken a step forward in improving the pedestrian component of the city’s comprehensive plan.

“I’m very encouraged to have someone that knows a lot about pedestrian issues (and) is willing to spend three hours with us to help us envision how we can improve our pedestrian walkability.” Bross-Fregonara said. “It will not only improve downtown but also deal with the connectability with the neighborhoods and the college.”

“I thought this was very positive,” Sabatino said. “We have some real problems that we need to take care of.”