City Councilors call for action on 'epidemic of traffic fatalities' in Springfield (WAMC)
Responding to what one City Councilor called “an epidemic of traffic fatalities” in Springfield, a City Council committee held an emergency meeting today.
With traffic fatalities in Springfield at a five-year high and a seven-fold increase in pedestrian deaths this year, City Councilors demanded that something be done.
“The time has come, I strongly believe, for action and not studies,” said Councilor Kateri Walsh, who chairs the Maintenance and Development Committee,
She opened Tuesday’s meeting by saying she and her colleagues want “immediate, direct, action.”
The recent traffic safety concerns have focused on State Street in the block downtown in front of the Central Library. Neighborhood activists have clamored for safety improvements since at least 2014 when a child was killed after being struck by a drunken driver.
Earlier this month, 56-year-old Gayle Ball, a supervisor of technical services and collections at the library, died after she was struck by a car while crossing the four-lane street.
Librarian Elizabeth McKinstry and several of her colleagues attended the committee’s meeting that was held remotely.
“We just need your help,” she said. “Anything you can do for us and our patrons because they feel like they are taking their lives into their own hands anytime they come to see us.”
A traffic study of State Street in front of the Central Library is already underway by a consultant hired by the city. DPW Director Chris Cignoli said a preliminary report is expected next week.
“I anticipate a number of different options are going to be presented to us,” he said.
Depending on what the study recommends, Cignoli said a short-term fix to try slow the traffic in front of the library might be implemented.
While State Street has been getting a lot of attention, City Councilor Jesse Lederman said it is not the only trouble spot.
“What we are really looking at is an epidemic of traffic fatalities in the city of Springfield and when we look at epidemics from a public health perspective you don’t just look at the individual event and say ‘oh they should have done this differently or that differently’ you have to look at the system in its totality and what changes have to be made,” said Lederman.
After six traffic fatalities during the first two weeks of November brought the year-to-date toll to 21, Springfield Police announced a high-visibility, zero tolerance crackdown on speeding and distracted driving.
City Councilor Justin Hurst said he heard from one constituent concerned about over-policing in her neighborhood.
“I’m not saying that we don’t need ( the police), I just think that they need to be part of an overall plan to reduce the number of pedestrian accidents that we’ve had in the city of Springfield,” Hurst said.
The police crackdown includes targeted enforcement on streets with high incidents of accidents and speeding. Sign boards will be put out, police cruisers will park with their blue emergency lights on, and there will be messages posted on social media.