Pedestrians seek safer crosswalk

May 02, 1994|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writer

Del Palmer says he didn't want to make the crosswalk in front of the Westminster branch library his personal crusade, but "gradually, pedestrians have just been squeezed out."

The Pennsylvania Avenue resident -- who wrote a letter to Mayor W. Benjamin Brown and Councilwoman Rebecca A. Orenstein -- and others who dodge cars as they try to use the East Main Street crosswalk soon may feel less squeezed.

Councilwoman Orenstein won promises that the State Highway Administration (SHA) will study the need for a signal light at the crosswalk and that Westminster police will issue warnings and fliers explaining the law to drivers who fail to stop for pedestrians.

The promises came at a meeting April 20.

"But eventually, I think you're going to have to get into an enforcement situation," Police Chief Sam R. Leppo warned.

Enforcement -- police issuing tickets to drivers who don't stop for people in the crosswalk -- apparently lacks the support of a majority of the council.

Council President Kenneth A. Yowan said the state law requiring court appearances by drivers ticketed for crosswalk violations should be changed.

"To have to take a day off and go to court, that's a major penalty," Mr. Yowan said.

Such appearances are an additional burden for police, he said.

Mr. Yowan proposed trying to change the law through the Maryland Municipal League, which will submit legislative proposals for the 1995 General Assembly session. The revision would allow motorists cited for crosswalk violations to pay fines rather than take their cases to court.

Mr. Yowan said he didn't think a majority of the council would vote to spend an estimated $40,000 to $50,000 for a traffic signal at the crosswalk. "Another traffic light in the middle of Main Street, I'm not sure I'd like to see that," he said.

He suggested hiring a crossing guard for after-school hours when students use the crosswalk. A crossing guard would provide a uniformed presence at a cost of about $3,000 a year, far less than the cost of a traffic light, he said.

Councilman Damian L. Halstad said he preferred police enforcement to another traffic signal. He agreed that drivers ignore the crosswalk. Councilman Stephen R. Chapin Sr. said he didn't have enough facts to form an opinion.

Councilwoman Orenstein said the crosswalk "has been one of the most persistent complaints in my three years in office."

Gene R. Straub, the SHA's assistant district engineer for traffic, said the crosswalk didn't have enough pedestrian traffic to warrant a traffic signal.

The SHA last counted pedestrian traffic in fall 1991.

Mr. Straub said the SHA will monitor the crosswalk again to determine if traffic has increased enough to require a signal. He pointed out that East Main Street is a city street, so local government would have to pay for the signal.

Chief Leppo said Maryland law doesn't require drivers to stop unless pedestrians are in the crosswalk.

"You can stand down on that sidewalk, and cars don't have to stop," he said.

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