WSAZ investigation | A road safety study in progress after a fatal accident
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – Thousands of students walk through high-traffic areas around the Marshall University campus daily, including areas where multiple pedestrian crashes have been reported over the years.
One such accident claimed the life of a student after she got off a transit bus.
Police say the light turned green just before Maribeth Cox pulled into the lane of oncoming traffic in the crosswalk.
She was hit by an SUV and died instantly.
“In this life alone, nothing can repay that,” said a Marshall University student.
WSAZ reached out to the West Virginia Department of Transportation (WVDOT) and Marshall University following the fatal crash last November to find out if they had any plans to improve safety in high-traffic areas around the campuses where students frequently cross the road.
Since this week, a road safety study has been underway.
We asked Robert Plymale, co-chair of the university’s pedestrian safety task force, why it took a female student to lose her life for a study like this to happen.
“I know this has been discussed many times by the engineering school and they have been very helpful in this regard. In fact, we have a number of students who have participated in the road safety audit” , Plymale said. “When you have a death, you never do things fast enough, so I think we react to that and we will do it quickly.”
Plymale says the university had to request the study from WVDOT.
“It’s a process, and we’ve made it the initial phase where you collect the data, collect the information, watch all the traffic lights, watch the truck traffic, you watch the vehicle traffic, you watch the speeds, you look at signage,” Plymale said.
He said the study focused on high-traffic areas around campus – starting at the corner of 20th Street and 3rd Avenue, to Hal Greer Boulevard, to 5th Avenue, then down 5th Avenue to 20th Street.
We also spoke to Plymale about how parents and students say they worry about crossing 3rd and 5th Avenues every day – not just for classes, but children sometimes have to cross these extremely busy areas to go to football or basketball games.
We asked him if he thought that these studies would be slow in coming.
“Well, I think obviously they’re over, because there have been accidents. So to do that and meet the long-term needs, you’re going to have to take a multimodal view, whether you’re doing cycle lanes or that you do other things that allow you to do that,” Plymale said. “Right now, if you look at this road here, we have four lanes of traffic. Do we need four lanes of traffic? part of the problem you have with pedestrians crossing is that it’s also a lot wider, so maybe you reduce that to three lanes and do other things that make it a little easier to cross.
Plymale says the process could take up to a few years, but they hope to complete it sooner.
As this safety study progresses, Plymale says it’s important for people to stay alert and not use their phones while using the crosswalk.
We contacted the West Virginia Highways Division to request maintenance several times, but they never responded to this request.
They sent the following statement confirming that the traffic study is underway and some basic details:
“The Pedestrian Road Safety Assessment we are involved in is a collaborative review with a multidisciplinary team of planners, emergency services, law enforcement, students, faculty and engineers. It This is a problem-solving process that will examine pedestrian generators and pathways, while looking for potential short- and long-term countermeasures.
“This process is in its early stages and to ensure the integrity of the data and information collected while guarding against any bias in the results, the evaluation part of the study should and should be considered a work in progress. We believe that some preliminary recommendations could be presented as soon as the summer and if promising ideas were to be implemented, the team will most certainly reach out to the public and share this information with them.
“It explains where we are at the start of the study and I am confident that this structured approach will lead the partners to a successful solution.”
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