Arsenal Street changes planned

WATERTOWN — A two-block section of Arsenal Street that’s become known as one of the most dangerous in the city to cross is getting some major changes.

Over the years, that location in front of the Jefferson County complex has been the site of several pedestrian-vehicle accidents, mainly caused by inattentive motorists speeding through the busy four-lane street.

But the city has come up with some new traffic patterns designed to make it safer for pedestrians to cross at that section of Arsenal Street.

Presented at a City Council work session, City Engineer Justin L. Wood and consultant Mark C. Budosh said on Monday night that they can alleviate the dangerous conditions.

“Obviously, it’s been a concern for years,” he said.

Pedestrians attempting to cross the four-lane street poses the greatest risk, Mr. Wood said.

The accidents often occur when motorists drive at high speeds, weave around turning and slower moving vehicles, Mr. Wood said.

A vehicle may stop in one lane at a crosswalk for a pedestrian but the faster vehicle often drives through it, he explained.

The major changes call for:

  • Creating a left-hand turning lane between Massey and Sherman streets;
  • Creating a “No Go Zone” from Sherman Street to the entrance of the Top of Square plaza. Traffic would no longer be permitted to use the two inner lanes in that block;
  • Traffic could continue to travel in both directions by using the outer lanes;
  • There would be must left-hand turns at Massey and Sherman streets.

It would take some simple road striping and adding signage.

They looked at other more expensive methods, like installing curb bump-outs and so-called flash beacon lights, but underground utility lines would prevent doing that, Mr. Wood said.

The changes would probably be made this summer.

Most of the traffic travels east, so it made sense to make the changes on the Massey and Sherman side, rather than at Public Square, he said.

About 9,000 vehicles travel east, compared to between 6,000 to 7,000 from the west, said Mr. Budosh, an engineer with Barton & Loguidice, Syracuse.

In May, R. Mark Fenton, an expert in making communities more walkable, led a walking tour of downtown when a hazardous situation happened at that exact spot.

He was talking to a group of local folks about the hazards of the crosswalk when a driver of a pickup truck made his point. Momentarily stuck in traffic, the driver pulled out on the other side of the road, beeped several times and went around several vehicles before getting in the right lane again.

“That’s the kind of driver I was talking about,” Mr. Fenton said about drivers not paying enough attention to pedestrians entering that crosswalk.

Two years ago, the city made some changes to the traffic pattern near the Watertown city school complex on Washington Street after a student was hit because of the same issues with cars weaving in and out of lanes.

The city also is also making some changes to West Main Street to solve some traffic safety concerns.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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