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Carbondale City Council: Car Speeds

Valarie Muhammad addresses the Carbondale City Council in April as they discussed reducing car speeds along North Wall Street.

CARBONDALE — About 10 months after the death of a 5-year-old who was struck by a driver while he was crossing Wall Street, City Council voted Tuesday to install crosswalk lights and signs to upgrade pedestrian safety there.

Community members demanded a plan to reduce speeds on Wall Street after Gary Starks, who was driving 60 mph in the 30 mph zone, struck and killed 5-year-old Amar Phillippe on Aug. 13, 2018. Amar was leaving Attucks Park.

Fifteen days later, Lee Hughes presented a petition to ask for speed bumps on the road. There were about seven months of apparent quiet from the city, despite a visible interest in addressing the issue from council and city officials. The quiet upset some on the city’s northeast side neighborhood. However, the city was working, conducting speed studies and looking at their options.

Then, during an April 23 meeting, City Manager Gary Williams announced the city’s proposed plan. The proposal was to reduce lanes on North Wall Street to 10.5 feet and add 4.5-foot bike lanes on either side. The city also would add enhanced crosswalks with illuminated signs. Carbondale Mayor Mike Henry explained that constricting the lanes forces drivers to slow down.

The proposal sparked lengthy debate from both council and community members.

The final proposal was presented Tuesday. According to city documents it will:

  • Upgrade the five existing mid-block crosswalks on North Wall Street with new signs, pavement markings, and pedestrian-activated warning lights;
  • Install marked bicycle lanes on each side of the street, which will narrow the traffic lanes to approximately 11 feet wide;
  • Reduce the posted speed limit to 25 mph from Thelma Walker Avenue to East Fisher Street — according to the documents, staff is concerned that by reducing the speed limit to 20 mph, drivers will alternatively use North Robert Stalls, which will add traffic volume to a primarily residential street.

After a lengthy reading of the city’s assessment of the goals of the project and the proposed project itself, the council agreed to move forward with it.

There were some notes, though. Councilmen Jeff Doherty and Adam Loos both agreed that they would like to see the speed limit reduced to 25 mph. Loos went even further to say he would like that to be the city’s default speed limit unless otherwise posted.

Later in the meeting, the council also voted to purchase crosswalk lights and signs for $42,331.08.

After the votes, Henry said he still hopes for the project to be completed before the start of school.

Also, as part of the plan, the city will hold a meeting with residents of the northeast side to answer questions about the speed reduction measures.

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isaac.smith@thesouthern.com

618-351-5823

On Twitter: @ismithreports

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Isaac Smith is a reporter covering Jackson County.

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