More Pedestrians, More Motorists, More Danger
With the popularity of fitness trackers and bicycling commuters on the rise, it’s no surprise that pedestrian traffic is up. However, dated road designs and limited crossings have raised concerns for many residents in highly urbanized areas. Many busy roadways are not designed for pedestrian traffic, and projects needed to improve pedestrian safety are often roadblocked by the limited resources available for cities and departments of transportation to fund them. Whether there’s reduced visibility, little-to-no traffic signals, and a lack of crossings, HEI has made it a priority to improve transportation safety for a number of projects. Through finding creative solutions to high-conflict areas or developing processes to improve the well-being of our team members, HEI has always put safety as the highest priority for all our projects.
Reconstruction of University Drive
University Drive in Fargo, ND, was chosen by the City of Fargo and the NDDOT to undergo an intensive reconstruction project. This is a prime example of how state and federal agencies and cities are taking action to improve the safety of busy roadways. There are three key elements of this project that improved access to the I-94 entrance and exit ramps and access to parking lots that are explained below.
1. I-94 Entrance Ramp and Pedestrian Crossing
With pedestrian crashes, including a fatality before 2011, the I-94 entrance ramp from University Drive required a nearly head-to-toe redesign to protect pedestrians and motorists alike. To begin, our team tackled the highest-conflict point of the project—the pedestrian crossing at the westbound I-94 on-ramp (see map below). Motorists taking this ramp would accelerate, not expecting people to be in their path. This combination of events led to at least one fatality before 2011.
Our design team proposed eliminating the current crossing and created a new protected crosswalk with a box culvert. This allows pedestrians to cross safely over to the west sidewalk, giving them a separate, specialized path beneath the interstate. Additionally, red, stamped concrete was used to clearly define the limits of the sidewalks. This helps pedestrians know which path to follow and allows motorists to easily see the sidewalks. Lighting was added throughout the box culvert and corridor to further improve safety.
2. South Pedestrian Crossing
On the south side of I-94, many pedestrians would cross University Drive at an unmarked location or walk within the northbound lane or along the boulevard areas, which were not intended for pedestrian traffic. To improve pedestrian safety, a crosswalk and ADA-compliant traffic signals were installed at the existing traffic light to encourage pedestrians to use the separated shared-use path through the interchange on the west side of University Drive. Additionally, red, stamped concrete was used to clearly define the limits of the sidewalks. This helps pedestrians know which path to follow and allows motorists to easily see the sidewalks.
3. Left-hand Turns
Before this project, motorists would make left-hand turns from northbound University Drive across three lanes of traffic to access one of five driveways, creating a chaotic and unpredictable traffic situation at times. Oncoming traffic could not easily see which driveway they were entering, and this emerged as another area where the project could improve traffic operations in the corridor. Our team designed a concrete median from the underpass north. There is now one, consolidated left-hand turn for the parking lots. To keep traffic leaving the parking lots from making a left-hand turn across three lanes of traffic onto northbound University Drive, motorists are instead directed to the traffic signal-controlled intersection of 18th Avenue South.
In 2019, the University Drive Reconstruction project won the Vision Zero Infrastructure Safety Award. This award recognizes projects that support the NDDOT's Vision Zero initiatives through traffic, roadway, bicycle/pedestrian, or multi-modal transportation improvements.