A state representative recently joined a group of four St. Louis alderpeople and several federal, state and local agencies to conduct a Road Safety Audit of a city thoroughfare.
The street being examined was Natural Bridge Avenue, which has a crash rate three times higher than the state average for roadways that are similar to it.
Its intersection with Union Blvd. accumulated one of the state’s highest accident tallies for road crossings not including an interstate highway. According to numbers compiled by a Missouri law firm, the intersection was the scene of 35 accidents between 2010 and 2015, 22 of which involved injuries.
The audit of Natural Bridge Avenue was an effort to evaluate safety conditions for pedestrians as well as drivers. Documents from the audit identified the street as “a five lane roadway that provides commuter access to downtown St. Louis, and commercial establishments, drawing a high number of pedestrians and motorists”.
Natural Bridge was chosen for the inspection because of its high concentration of automobile accidents, its high number of crashes involving pedestrians, and the speed of the vehicles traveling on it.
Missouri House Democrat Joshua Peters of St. Louis participated in the audit, which included a two day walk through the street’s corridor. He said the vehicle speeds were especially excessive.
“The posted speed limit is 35 miles-per-hour” said Peters. “We had people going 60 and 70 miles-per-hour on Natural Bridge. Again this is a residential-commercial thoroughfare.”
During the physical walking tour, those who took part took notes on sidewalk and street conditions, and pedestrian traffic.
The Federal Highway Administration named St. Louis a ‘focus city’ for pedestrian fatalities, a designation given to municipalities with 20 or more pedestrian fatalities per year. Peters said the physical layout of Natural Bridge Avenue invites drivers to speed.
“The broadness of the road, the landscaping, the stripes on the street. It just creates an environment for people to speed, and unfortunately it sometimes clashes with our pedestrians trying to cross the street.”
Natural Bridge is seven times more likely than any other street in St. Louis to be the site of an accident involving a fatality. Peters said the parties involved in the audit agree that measures need to be taken to slow traffic down on the roadway. Ideas such as adjusting the striping and decreasing the number of lanes are being considered.
Peters notes making changes to the landscaping is also being considered. “Do we need to include more trees to give a narrow tunnel vision, when it comes to drivers, to slow down.”
Two separate sets of recommendations for improving safety on Natural Bridge are set to be issued. According to Peters, the engineer designated to the city of St. Louis by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MODoT) will release his findings in roughly 30 days, while the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issues its report in about 90 days.
Individuals who took part in the two day Road Safety Audit included Peters along with St. Louis Alderpeople Brandon Bosley, John Collins Muhammad, Jeffrey Boyd, and Sharon Tyus. The federal, state and local agencies participating were DOT, MODoT, the City of St. Louis Street Department, the Missouri Highway Patrol, and St. Louis Police Department.
Peters indicated he believes the audit will be productive in making Natural Bridge Avenue a safer roadway. “I promised that I would not rest until the decision makers developed a solution that would ensure the safety of our young people, and all pedestrians, and I believe that this audit is the first step towards making that happen” Peters said.