Story by Elizabeth Walztoni, News Editor Intern
Photo courtesy of Valentina Garcia
The crosswalk on Fulton Street outside the Sturrus Center is being updated as a result of a student initiative to improve campus’ accessibility to commuters.
First-year student Samuel Preston used his position on Student Senate to bring attention to issues with the crosswalk. Like many commuters, he did not park on campus and had to cross the street, which was made difficult by the fact that drivers rarely followed the Michigan law to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk. He described having to run across Fulton, or walk halfway and wait in the middle of the street for a pause in oncoming cars. Once, he was ten minutes late to class due to heavy traffic.
“I was perturbed by the blatant negligence of drivers,” Preston said, “and thought it was an issue that needed to be addressed sooner rather than later.”
The concern was brought up to Campus Safety, which began working with the city of Grand Rapids to improve the crosswalk. Preston said that he appreciated their responsiveness to student voices. Kevin Kwiatkowski, director of Campus Safety, explained that the crosswalk was not actively maintained by the city in the past; more visible signage has since been added and the lines on the road will be repainted in the spring. If necessary, additional patrols by the police department will be requested.
Commuters face danger crossing the street at other locations around campus, but Kwiatkowksi explained that improving accessibility has long been complicated by the ordinances of the three municipalities that govern Aquinas and its surroundings. The college’s location makes it subject to a combination of the laws of the city of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Township and East Grand Rapids in different areas.
For example, the Browne Center portion of Woodward Lane is ineligible for a Grand Rapids Charter Township crosswalk because it would be a “driveway-to-driveway” crossing; the city of East Grand Rapids would implement this type of crossing, but cannot because there are no sidewalks. The stretch of Robinson Road outside Albertus Hall is another area often used by commuters, and one that can have heavy traffic, but it also lacks a sidewalk. The possibility of building sidewalks along these roads is not currently under consideration.
Discussion has begun about a partnership with Spectrum Health/Blodgett for the creation of a crossing at Plymouth and Robinson (where Brookby is located), but that corner is the intersection of the three municipalities’ jurisdiction, which makes it difficult to coordinate a solution.
The type of crosswalk implemented is also subject to bureaucratic hurdles: a fully equipped one with buttons, the safer structure seen at stoplights, requires not just municipality approval but roughly $70,000 in funding.
Kwiatkowski said that although Campus Safety “wants to explore” these options, and other ways to improve campus accessibility, there are no new projects on the horizon.
About the Writer:
Elizabeth Walztoni is a sophomore majoring in Geography with a minor in writing.