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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Intersection Discussion

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A very real problem on virtually any college campus is going to be the potential conflict between pedestrians and vehicles traversing the campus. Often both groups are attempting to get to a specific destination within certain time constraints and may not be as vigilant in looking out for the other as they should be. Where possibilities exists to minimize this potential conflict, appropriate resources should be dedicated to do so.

Minnesota State University - Mankato is no different from other college campuses. There were several high vehicle traffic/high pedestrian traffic locations noted currently with another significant locations likely coming on line in October 2000 when the Taylor Center opens. The most notable location is at the intersection of Ellis Avenue and Stadium Road. On the south side of Stadium is the Gage Residence Hall housing some 1,300 students. As many of these students cross to campus for class, they are crossing from the southwest to the northwest corner of the intersection. Further to the north they are traveling across the entry/exit lanes to the pay lot that is heavily utilized and then South Road (West) in front of the Student Union. At each of these locations, there is significant conflict between students as pedestrians and students, faculty, staff and visitors in autos and the campus buses. The particular fact that much of the conflict occurs during the break between classes as students rush to their destination and those exiting campus and desire to leave campus in a timely fashion delay on both parties causes serious frustration and the very real possibility for pedestrian/vehicle accidents.

One suggested solution for the Stadium Road/Ellis Avenue intersection, which has in fact been adopted by the Parking Advisory Committee, is the directing of students to the East Side of Ellis Avenue. This has the benefits of moving them away from the "blind" crossing as cars travel eastbound up the hill on Stadium Road to Ellis. It allows eastbound traffic to turn left (north) onto Ellis without the delay from students crossing Stadium. It also reduces the conflict with cars and students at the entry/exit to the pay parking lot in front of the Student Union and with busses. Students are moved onto the opposite sidewalk. This has the benefit of it actually places them on the better side of the road and generally closer to where they should want to be and eliminates much of the conflict. This is a very simple, yet highly functional solution to this serious problem at this intersection. Alternatives of either an elevated or underground connection would be, in our opinion, both very expensive and if off the easiest path for students would not, in our opinion, be used. Students would not climb stairs to reach the elevated pathway but would in all likelihood merely cross the street at grade and thereby not eliminating the conflict.

Another location with a high potential for accidents is on the East Side of campus at Warren. East of Warren there are numerous apartment complexes housing many students not electing to live in the campus dormitories. With campus so convenient and the parking situation, many students walk to class with the same ambivalence as they cross Warren. Drivers must pay particular attention since many students have the attitude, "I'm the pedestrian and I have the right of way so you have to watch out for me." It was observed often that once one student starts across the roadway that others would follow in a steady procession

The problem on Warren Avenue does not however offer the same potential for a simple solution. Here it would not matter on what side of the street the students cross as either one creates the potential conflict. Some sort of appropriate traffic control device either a light, pedestrian crossing signal or traffic speed bumps would seem to be necessary to compel vehicles to slow down such that they could easily stop when pedestrians are present. Without going to the significant expense of traffic signals, perhaps the simplest solution would be either speed bumps or even a flashing yellow pedestrian crossing signal. The major focus would be to insure that drivers were made aware of pedestrians crossing who may not be paying particular attention or expecting that the drivers do in fact see them and expecting the driver to stop. Here we feel that a traffic engineer or campus planner should be consulted for the most appropriate solution given the vehicle volume, pedestrian flows and potential for conflict.

Similar potential exists for conflict once the Taylor Center opens and provides an obvious convenient access point to the campus from the "remote" lots on the southeast portion of the campus. As pedestrians cross Stadium road from these lots to the Taylor Center whether for classes or athletic events there is a high potential for vehicle/pedestrian interactions.

Similarly, at the Taylor Center the pedestrian vehicle interaction solution is a difficult one. Traffic signals are certainly one possibility but we understand that the City would insist that this cost is borne by the University alone but this may be the best solution available. There is of course always the possibility that the students or others would simply ignore the signals and cross whenever they perceive a break in traffic thereby reducing the potential benefit of the signals. Certainly any method that separates vehicles and pedestrian would be the safest and preferred choice. However, we don't feel that an overhead bridge connection would be reasonable since we don't feel that students or patrons would consistently climb stairs to such a connection unless the traffic volume was such and the delay incurred would be shorter than waiting for a traffic break. Instead, we think pedestrians would take the more direct route across Stadium Road. Tunneling would be prohibitively expensive and even then, unless the pathway was convenient enough for the students and others parking in lots 20 through 23 it would not guarantee its use. Here again however, we feel that a traffic engineer or campus planner should be consulted again considering the potential for conflict given the expected vehicle volumes particularly during events at the Taylor Center.