Improved lighting a first step to upping intersection safety
ALPENA — Young people navigating a busy intersection are one step closer to a safer walk to school, city leaders say.
After a vehicle struck a Thunder Bay Junior High School student in October, city, township, and Alpena Public Schools officials met to consider ways to improve safety at the intersection of Hobbs Drive and 3rd Avenue.
The 11-year-old student escaped injury, but the vehicle knocked her down and passed over her as she tried to cross 3rd on her way to school.
Adjacent to Alpena High School property and the only entry point to the road on which the junior high school sits, the intersection becomes crowded with traffic and pedestrians for brief periods at the beginning and end of school days.
In December, APS Superintendent David Rabbideau said the district, with the city’s help, hopes to hire a crossing guard for the intersection, as well as for three other intersections heavily used by students.
District officials are still discussing how to make that happen, said Alpena City Engineer Steve Shultz.
In the meantime, the city’s electrical contractor has installed bright LED bulbs in the intersection’s two existing light posts – which previously offered only dim, yellow light – and plans to install a new, possibly two-headed light on the northeast corner of the intersection, Shultz said.
That light will go up when staff and equipment become available, Shultz said.
The brighter lights could help drivers see the students who cross either street in the dark on their way to school on winter mornings, headlights hiding their dark forms on the busy roads.
At about 3:30 Thursday afternoon, several dozen students walked and ran across the intersection, hurrying to cross as long lines of drivers from every direction tried to turn before their light turned red.
Michigan Department of Transportation representatives have told Alpena officials that the intersection should qualify for a safety grant that would fund a replacement of the traffic light at the intersection.
If the city applies for and is awarded that grant this year, the money would not be available until 2024, Shultz said.
City officials have no plans to make changes to other intersections in the city, but an MDOT study of the intersection of U.S.-23 North and Golf Course Road, conducted at the request of Alpena Township, indicated a need for a four-way traffic light at that intersection.
That light is on track to arrive this year, Alpena Township Supervisor Nathan Skibbe said.
The new signal, to be installed by MDOT because U.S.-23 is a state highway, is intended to improve traffic flow, with increased safety a probable side benefit, Shultz said.
Drivers can help keep their fellow residents safe – and pedestrians can increase their own safety – by following laws of the road, obeying traffic signals, and exercising extra caution in school zones, Shultz said.