By Crystal Havner
Special to the Sun-Gazette
FARMERSVILLE – Can putting in a sidewalk actually make a section of roadway more dangerous?
That was the debate at the Farmersville City Council meeting on July 8 when the council considered three alternatives for a proposed crosswalk at Visalia Road and Shasta Avenue. Alternatives included a crosswalk with a concrete pedestrian refuge island on Visalia Road with flashing beacons, a crosswalk with a median island, and not installing a crosswalk at all.
Yohanes Makmur, an assistant engineer with the city’s engineering firm QK, recommended that no new crosswalk be added to Visalia Road at this time. Makmur expressed his concern that moving the crosswalk east to Dode Avenue would discourage pedestrians to use a crosswalk when going to the shopping center.
City staff had concerns about a mid-block pedestrian crossing because of fatal collisions in the area. In its comments on the project, the Risk Management Authority stated that mid-block pedestrian crossings can be high risk due to injuries and liability to the city.
Police Chief Mario Krstic said he believed a new crosswalk could actually increase the likelihood of vehicles hitting pedestrians on Visalia Road.
“We do not want to give pedestrians a false sense of safety,” he said. “If we put in a crosswalk it makes pedestrians feel like it is safe to cross and it is not. I’m afraid it will just make a bad situation worse.”
Council member Ruben Macareno said he thought the crosswalk was necessary to protect pedestrians a at a place where they are already crossing on a busy road. He implied the city did not want to do the project because of the cost.
“We need to figure something out. It is not always about the money but about what makes sense for the community,” Macareno said. “There will be another fatality eventually. We were elected for these kinds of decisions, not just the big projects and I think you forget that sometimes.”
Makmur said there would be some additional cost to the project because an existing utility pole would need to be relocated behind the sidewalk in order for curbs to comply with the American with Disabilities Act. A concrete pedestrian island with flashing beacons, signage and pavement marking, ramps, traffic control and project design would cost an estimated $104,000. A concrete median island with flashing beacons, signage and pavement markings, ramps, traffic control and project design would cost an estimated $233,000.
Makmur proposed adding rumble strips, vehicle speed feedback signs and Welcome to Farmersville sign, all in an effort to reduce vehicle speed in the area at an estimated cost of just $28,000
Council member Paul Boyer suggested the decision be postponed.
“I would like to get more community input and have some further research done before the council makes a decision,” he said.
The council agreed and the matter will be brought back at a future meeting.
Brandon Saefong was promoted to Fire Captain and Brandon Parish was made a full-time engineer. The positions needed to be filled after the departure of long-time fire department employee Brian Kyle and the resignation of Captain Jay Thomas. The department also lost the income from the SAFER Grant and lost the paid fire chief position.
The department is looking to fill the positions of one full-time fire fighter, one full-time code enforcement officer and one volunteer fire chief.
“We are moving quickly, but very carefully,” Chief Krstic said. “We thank the volunteer fire department for their input and patience and dedication. You do an amazing amount of work for little or nothing. In these difficult financial situations, difficult decisions need to be made. When these conditions improve, your sacrifices will be remembered.”