PennDOT denies Allegheny’s request to lower speed limit

Joseph Tingley, News Editor

A request from Allegheny College to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to lower the speed limit on North Main Street was denied, Allegheny Student Government Vice President Tess Bracken, ’17, announced at ASG’s first meeting of the semester on Jan. 19, 2016.

The request was filed by the college following the death of Hannah Morris, ’17, who died on Oct. 29, 2015 after being struck by a car on North Main Street. The driver has since been identified as Meadville resident Jeffrey Freeman, who was not charged with any crime or traffic violations following a police investigation , according to the Meadville Tribune.

The accident, the second on North Main Street involving a student in the last three years, has prompted discussions among faculty, staff and students about the best way to improve pedestrian safety on campus.

Bracken said ASG is continuing to work with the administration to find solutions, but admitted PennDOT’s decision was a blow.

“We are going to do what we can, but it is frustrating,” Bracken said.

Provost and Dean of the college Ron Cole, who heard ideas from ASG prior to the winter break on how to improve pedestrian safety, also expressed his disappointment.

“I’m disappointed of course, I would have liked to see the speed limit reduced,” Cole said.

I’m disappointed of course, I would have liked to see the speed limit reduced.

— Ron Cole

Sue Stuebner, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the college, admitted she was also disappointed with PennDOT’s decision. Stuebner explained the reason for the denial of the request was a study the department conducted while considering the request, which found that between 75-80 percent of traffic on North Main was traveling at or below the current established speed limit.

Following the decision by PennDOT members of the administration, including President James Mullen, and Stuebner met with officials from PennDOT and the City of Meadville to discuss different ways to improve pedestrian safety.

“Sitting in the meeting with PennDOT there were a lot good topics discussed,” Stuebner said.

Stuebner said progress has been made, and new signage designed to alert drivers as they approach crosswalks on North Main Street has already been implemented by the college.

“The thing I am most concerned about is changing driver behavior,” Stuebner said.

She said in the future the college hopes to make crosswalks more uniform, so drivers can more easily identify them.

In addition to the new signage, Stuebner said PennDOT is currently working to provide the college with pedestrian yield  signs for the middle of all campus crosswalks.

“A lot of this is just to get pedestrian and driver awareness, hopefully these signs will help,” Stuebner said.

While the focus is primarily on changing driver behavior, Stuebner said the college’s Safety Committee is also working on a campaign to change student behavior. She said this will include a tabling campaign offering free backpack reflectors to students who sign a pledge to use caution when crossing the street.

According to Bracken, the committee will also be working to produce an educational video designed to increase driver and pedestrian awareness. She said ASG is also discussing ways to further improve signage and lighting.

Stuebner said the college is also waiting on a more comprehensive report from an outside regional engineering firm that will look at ways to manage traffic on North Main Street. Among the possible solutions, the report will explore a possible four-way stop somewhere on North Main.

“It’ll be something that we would have to get permission from the city and PennDOT to actually make changes, but we would have the report to back us up,” Stuebner said.

The report should be completed within the next ten days, according to Stuebner.