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Town of Normal to study intersection of fatal pedestrian accident

The conjunction of College Avenue and Kingsley in Normal, where a pedestrian was struck and killed Monday, carries more than 8,000 vehicles per day according to IDOT counts.
Emily Bollinger
The conjunction of College Avenue and Kingsley in Normal, where a pedestrian was struck and killed Monday, carries more than 8,000 vehicles per day, according to IDOT counts.

The Town of Normal will study the intersection and crosswalk where an Illinois State University graduate student was struck and killed Nov. 29.

Danielle Fairchild, 23, was hit by a motorist while walking across the street at College Avenue and Kingsley Street.

"The town engineering staff is evaluating possible options for modifications to the crosswalk and and intersection area. We'll soon be meeting with ISU staff to see what steps can be taken to really enhance the safety," said Normal City Engineer Ryan Otto.

Such examinations are typically collaborative efforts, said Otto. ISU owns property on both sides of the street, and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is involved because the location of the fatality is close to U.S. Business Route 51.

Otto said this is not the first time the town has looked at that general location.

Flowers left at the intersection where 23-year old ISU graduate student Danielle Fairchild died.
Emily Bollinger
Flowers left at the intersection where 23-year old ISU graduate student Danielle Fairchild died.

"The town and ISU have noticed there are a lot of pedestrians there. That is why I believe the intersection was painted and why the street light was added, as well as the pedestrian crossing," said Otto.

IDOT traffic counts show more than 8,000 vehicles per day go through that stretch of College Avenue. Otto said the process that led to previous changes is not what is proposed now — a full engineering study.

"We'll be going through a consultant engineering firm to take a look at those options to make sure we are evaluating it to the fullest extent," said Otto.

The location has multiple lanes of traffic and a nearby traffic light. The road also curves. Otto acknowledged this may make that crosswalk easier for a motorist unfamiliar with the road to miss.

"College Avenue is a major arterial road, certainly an area of higher risk for pedestrians and vehicles," said Otto. adding all options are on the table, including new signaling, rebuilding the intersection or even an underpass such as the one nearby at Main and College, though that last is unlikely.

"Certainly, I think we'll look at that, but I don't know that with the current uses on both north and south and the proximity of the buildings whether that will physically be possible," said Otto.

Right now, there is a ladder-painted crosswalk in the area. Pedestrian crossing signs call out the location of the crosswalk to drivers, he said. And there are street lights at the intersection. He said additional traffic lights are one option. Other intersection treatments are another possibility, including an island in the middle for pedestrians to pause.

"It's one of the things we would look at to see if whether there is an opportunity to modify the roadway geometry to allow that," said Otto.

Less likely is the idea of creating a stop intersection so near to the street light at the College and Main intersection that carries close to 24,000 vehicles per day.

WGLT asked Otto whether there is a best practice or standard guidance for situations in which there are two crosswalks relatively close together, not far from a traffic light.

"Each situation is fairly unique in terms of pedestrian volumes, turning movements, volumes on the major arterial. We're going to have to evaluate all those different factors," said Otto.

He said the town follows IDOT standards that have has various manuals that deal with pedestrians, bicycles, and complete streets.

One example of the changes that can happen in a high volume corridor such as College Avenue is not far away from the site of the fatality. Otto said the College and University Street intersection was changed a couple years ago.

"To make the signal crossing easier for pedestrians to use and understand. We added accessible signals to that intersection, including redoing the sidewalks to make more refuge space for students to stand on the corners and access the crossing," said Otto.

He said he is not yet sure of the cost of the study, estimating early results could come in a couple months.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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