Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Eileen Petula sent out an email to the college on Sept. 21 announcing the installation of a traffic camera at the crosswalk on North Main Street by the Tippie Alumni Center. At least two more cameras were installed between Tuesday, Sept. 27 and Thursday, Sept. 29.
“The purpose of the study is to come up with possible mitigation-type options of what we can do to improve traffic flow, safety, speed control. I’m not sure what all those options will be,” Petula said.
According to Petula’s email, the camera was installed by Whitman, Requardt & Associates, a national engineering firm.
Chief Financial Officer Linda Wetsell said the installation is to monitor pedestrian traffic, and the first camera’s installation was meant be a test for those following cameras. The first camera was taken down on Thursday, Sept. 29.
“The first time they put it up was a test to prepare how to put the other cameras for their sampling,” Wetsell said.
According to Petula, the college does not know if the installation of more cameras will be necessary, and it depends on the findings of the current ones. She said the college would be supportive if WRA did install more.
“I think we’d be open to that because ultimately this data collection is going to lead us to a better result as far as solutions, so if we needed to, we’d entertain that,” Petula said.
Petula also said the cameras will help the college determine what days of the week and times of the day have greater pedestrian and vehicle traffic.
According to Wetsell, there are long-term steps the college is taking, such as the traffic study, but the college has been making more efforts as well.
“We have two efforts that are going on: we have a short-term effort, which is looking at the lighting, the crosswalks, some different things like that,” Wetsell said. “So we worked with the city earlier on to try and identify or emphasize our crosswalks more, thus we did some work with them. So our short-term efforts were a little bit more with the city, and then the long-term effort has been with PennDOT to do a longer term study.”
The study is expected to continue until Jan. 1, 2017, according to Wetsell. The college has also ordered new street lights for the west side of North Main Street in front of North Village II, which the college owns, and is expecting to have them delivered by Nov. 1.
“The goal is to try and have them up immediately,” Wetsell said. “And then the lights will light not only the street, but are designed to light the sidewalks on both sides of the street so that the flow of light will cover sidewalk-to-sidewalk.”
Wetsell said this project is part of a long-term collaboration that has been going on with the City of Meadville and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for almost a year. In that time, the college has changed several crosswalks to brick with reflective white stripes around them. They have also installed several signs indicating where the crosswalks are.
“PennDOT is facilitating the longer study, so they’re paying for that one,” Wetsell said. “But the effort for the lights—we’re paying for that. The crosswalks—the college paid for those too. Some of the signs the city paid for. I think it’s been a good collaborative effort.”
The lighting on campus, and particularly that on North Main Street, came under scrutiny last year after Hannah Morris, a student in the class of 2017, was struck by a car and died hours later from her injuries on Oct. 29, 2015, on North Main Street in front of North Village II.
Morris’s accident was the second in three years on the street involving a student. After the 2015 accident, Allegheny Student Government formed an ad hoc committee to address campus traffic. According to Chief of Staff Hayden Moyer, ’17, the ad hoc committee was not reinstated for the new academic year.
“It ended at the end of last year and we have not created a new one,” Moyer said.
According to Moyer, ASG would be willing to create another ad hoc committee if there was student interest for one.
Any changes to east side of North Main Street by Oddfellows would have to be approved by PennDOT, said Pennsylvania State Representative Brad Roae in November of 2015. Roae said he wanted to be a part of the discussions following PennDOT’s studies on campus, but Wetsell said she is not aware of him having any involvement since then.
Brian Williams, the office manager for Roae’s Meadville office, said he has opinions about the decisions going forward and can make suggestions about how to improve the traffic situation, but does not have authority over the final decisions.
“No, he’s not been in office meetings on this subject. … Brad can offer suggestions, but certainly not more than anyone else,” Williams said.
The first study conducted by PennDOT surveyed the speed of vehicles on North Main Street, and found that 85 percent of vehicles drove at or below the speed limit, according to Jim Carroll, a spokesperson for PennDOT. Due to these findings, PennDOT denied the college’s request to have the speed limit lowered.
“The majority of motorists were traveling safely at that speed,” Carroll said.
Brian Smith, traffic engineer for PennDOT said this is usually how the department determines whether or not to lower the speed.
“Studies have shown it’s actually safer if you post the speed at what drivers are actually going,” Smith said. “Eighty-five percent of people are driving safely. Basically, they’re not going to [slow down] because it doesn’t make sense.”
Carroll said some results of the traffic study could be things like narrowing the roadway.
“It makes people feel confined, so they go slower,” Carroll said.
Wetsell said since last year, she has met or communicated with Meadville City Manager Andy Walker, ’00, and representatives from PennDOT several times. According to Petula, the most recent meeting was on Sept. 7, Petula’s first day at the college.