The biggest problem with Walla Walla’s streets are not the potholes, but dangers pedestrians face while trying to cross them.
We draw this conclusion from anecdotal evidence rather than an exhaustive study of intersections within the city. It just seems as if too many pedestrians have been killed or seriously injured by vehicles trying to cross a road. We believe one death or serious injury is one too many.
An analysis of the situation done by DKS Associates confirms our observational conclusion. It shows that out of 31 fatal or serious injury crashes over five years throughout the city, more than half — 17 — involved a pedestrian or bicyclist.
The problem of serious pedestrian accidents can’t be attributed solely to traffic design. Drivers are clearly a huge factor. And, again, based on observation of driving in the downtown core, too many drivers seem to resist coming to a complete stop, using their turn signals and — among a few other things — immediately making a turn when the light turns green even when a pedestrian has already started crossing.
Drivers can, and should, be more attentive for pedestrians.
Still, taking action to improve intersections would help — and that is exactly what the Walla Walla City Council intends to see happen. The Council approved a design contract this month with H.W. Lochner, a construction engineering company based in Chicago, for design of the Citywide Pedestrian Safety Improvements Project.
This project will add curb extensions, ramps that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, lighting enhancements, new striping and rapid flashing beacons to seven street crossings throughout the city, including four on Poplar Street.
Funding for the project mostly comes from a federal grant. The city will receive $466,000 from the federal 2018 City Safety Program, which calls for it to contribute 10 percent, or $16,000.
This seems a wise use of federal and local tax dollars.
The number of serious pedestrian accidents in Walla Walla is simply unacceptable.