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Crosswalks will go another year without repainting: Officials say other safety measures make up for lack of crosswalk stripes

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Hastings Minnesota 745 Spiral Boulevard 55033

For some, the lack of a marked crosswalk at 13th Street and Pleasant Drive isn't a big deal. To others, it's a safety concern, since it's the closest intersection to McAuliffe Elementary School.

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A crosswalk used to be painted there. Director of Public Works Tom Montgomery said it was likely lost in 2011. Pleasant Drive was repaved in 2010, and seal coating was done in 2011.

"When we seal coat something, we will typically put back pavement markings for turn lanes, center lines, but since we're not repainting crosswalks, we didn't put those in," Montgomery said.

The Pleasant Drive crossing by McAuliffe isn't the only crosswalk that's gone missing over the past year. When the city set its budget for 2012, one of the changes made to save money was to eliminate repainting any crosswalks or parking stall lines for the year. The measure will continue in 2013.

In previous years, the Public Works Department employed one full-time and one part-time operator to freshen up crosswalk and parking lot striping. The budget reduction eliminated the part-time position and allowed the full-time worker to help out on other projects. It also saved the city about in $6,000 paint alone.

Another factor that led the city to stop painting crosswalks was staffing. Since 2006, Public Works has lost four people. One will get replaced with the 2013 budget, but there's still a lot of work to spread out.

"We're trying to prioritize workload," Montgomery said.

A safety concern?

Public Works did its research before deciding to eliminate crosswalk painting. They looked at overall safety and determined that there were enough other safety measures in place to help keep pedestrians safe while crossing the roads.

"Crosswalks still have signage on them, the vast majority of them are located at four-way stops, or, as in the situation with McAuliffe Elementary... there are crossing guards there with stop signs," Montgomery said.

Others have done studies on crosswalk safety, and while painted crosswalks are considered useful, they don't guarantee pedestrians' safety. According to a guide developed by the National Center for Safe Routes to School and the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, "A marked crosswalk can benefit pedestrians by directing them to cross at locations where appropriate traffic control, including traffic signals or adult school crossing guards, either currently exist or can be provided. However, marked pedestrian crosswalks, in and of themselves, do not slow traffic or reduce pedestrian crashes" (guide.saferoutesinfo.org).

Montgomery encouraged pedestrians to make themselves aware of traffic before crossing a street.

"Any time any children are crossing any street, they need to be aware of traffic.... They cannot depend on a sign or a crosswalk," he said.

Looking ahead

The city has already decided to keep crosswalk painting out of next year's budget as well, so it's not likely that pedestrians will see any new stripes anytime soon. When asked about the possibility of painting in 2014, Montgomery said they'll just have to wait and see. Going without will help his department determine if painted crosswalks are a real need for Hastings or if they're a nice but unnecessary feature. The city will be watching for any incidents or reports of near misses to help determine if the lack of a painted crosswalk becomes an issue.

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Katrina Styx
Katrina Styx has been a reporter for the Hastings Star Gazette since 2010. She has a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in journalism from the University of Wisconsin - River Falls. Prior to coming to Hastings, Katrina reported for weekly newspapers in Jordan, Minn., and River Falls, Wis.
(651) 319-4501
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