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New Cascade will ensure safety

October 29, 2009

Safety issues on the crosswalks of Cascade Avenue have been a problem in the past, but so far this year there have been no pedestrian injuries.

“[Pedestrians] need to be defensive and presume that drivers do not see them when crossing the street,” Richard Trende, chief of police, said. “Drivers also need to be respectful of pedestrians.”

“We can’t expect drivers to be aware of all pedestrians at all times,” Reid Wronski, city engineer, said. “Sometimes they can’t always see you,” which is why the city will be dividing the street with a wide median so pedestrians can cross one lane at a time. Roundabouts are being incorporated causing vehicles to reduce their speed. On-street parking will also be removed in order to keep people from crossing the street straight from their vehicles.

“The City of River Falls, UW-River Falls and citizens have long been concerned over Cascade Avenue…many concerns relative to traffic operations and pedestrian movements along and across the corridor have been expressed,” according to the City of River Falls Web site.

The components of the plan are to implement three roundabouts at Wasson Lane, Sixth Street and Second Street.

“The roundabouts will control the speed of traffic, allow freedom of movement from cross street traffic and maintain flow of traffic along Cascade Avenue,” according to the City of River Falls Web site.

“[Roundabouts] are designed to make people drive slower,” Wronski said.

The streets will also be changing to single lanes divided by a wide median. According to the City of River Falls Web site, “the section between Second Street and Sixth Street would consist of a single lane in each direction with a wider median. The section of Cascade Avenue between Sixth Street and Wasson Lane will be modified significantly. The overall concept is continued with a median section wide enough for landscaping through most of the area. The median will have left turn lanes at several intersections. Access will be via an entrance from the eastbound roadway just east of the Sixth Street
roundabout.”

“[The single lanes and median] will get pedestrians to cross where we want them to cross,” Wronski said. “The crosswalks will also have flashers above them with a system that detects when a pedestrian is crossing. Another benefit for pedestrians is removing parking from the street. This will help drivers to see pedestrians and prevent people from getting out of their vehicles and crossing the street without using the crosswalks.” 

New parking will be provided by reconstructing the parking lots west of North Hall between Second Street, Third Street, Cascade Avenue and Spring Street into a single efficient lot and a new parking bay located west of Birchcrest Lane to east of Sixth Street. 

Alexis D’Aquisto, a junior majoring in English, is aware of the redesign and said she usually does not have trouble crossing Cascade Avenue.

“I look both ways and if I see a car flying down the street, I am hesitant to cross,” D’Aquisto said.

She also said she is not looking forward to losing the on-street parking.

“It’s frustrating to know we will be losing parking on Cascade Avenue,” she said.

Just how many parking spaces will UWRF lose? According to the City of River Falls Web site, “under existing conditions, the number of vehicles parked in the areas impacted by the concept include 232 on-street and 221 off-street spaces for a total of 453. In the recommended concept, these are replaced by 42 on-street and 403 off-street spaces for a total of 451 or a net loss of two spaces. However, the number of on-street spaces interfering with traffic was reduced from 232 to 48. The concept therefore provides virtually the same number of parking spaces but removes a number of those which are hazardous and places them in a better defined parking area. Access to both of the parking areas is possible without accessing Cascade Avenue between Second Street and Sixth Street.”

“I’ve never had any big problems [when crossing Cascade Avenue],” Erin Mulliner, a junior majoring in social work, said. “I’m usually okay if I use the crosswalks. I check both ways and see whether or not the vehicle is slowing down. Sometimes, you’ve got to take your chances and hopefully they slow down.”

“There have been some close calls,” Trende said. He recommends pedestrians refrain from using their cell phones when using the crosswalks in heavy traffic and to always be aware of vehicles.

Pedestrians who do not practice crosswalk safety “are putting themselves at risk.”