Xander de Vries

Life just got a little bit easier for students looking to cross York Street in front of the University Theater, with the introduction of a new crosswalk with flashing lights. The project was the result of collaboration between the University and New Haven.

This summer, the city installed a new crosswalk on York facing the theatre. A second crosswalk was installed on Prospect Street in front of Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray colleges, as part of the new colleges’ construction. A similar crosswalk on Temple Street between Silliman and Timothy Dwight colleges was installed by the city last December. All three crosswalks feature extensive road signs, curb bump-outs and solar-powered flashing lights that pedestrians can press before crossing. Additionally, the city raised the crosswalk on York to the level of the sidewalk.

“[The crosswalks] are combinations of people’s foresight and initiative,” said Kirsten Bechtel, chair of the Yale Traffic Safety Committee, referring to the crossings on York and Temple streets.

The crosswalk projects originally stemmed from the efforts of students in the School of Drama and Timothy Dwight College, whose suggestions the committee reviewed and submitted to the city, Bechtel said.

She recounted the story of a student in TD five years ago who had to cross the intersection every day in a wheelchair. Concerns about his safety became an impetus for the plan to build a new crosswalk at the intersection.

Bechtel cited heavy pedestrian traffic as the main justification for the locations of the crosswalks.

The York Street crosswalk is located between the School of Drama and Library Walk and serves as a natural crossing place for students and tourists while the one on Temple is used by many students in TD on their way to and from classes, she said. She also noted that the York crosswalk breaks up the long block in half, reducing the speed of vehicles as they approach the intersection of Broadway and York Streets.

“Hopefully, it will help the business there because people will be more likely to park and cross over,” Bechtel said.

After the Yale committee submitted its crosswalk proposal, Doug Hausladen ’04, the city’s director of transportation, headed the review process in which traffic engineers evaluated the project’s cost and feasibility. The whole process of review and funding took four years, Hausladen said, and the project was jointly funded by the city and the University.

Bechtel noted that the York crosswalk was actually proposed two years ago, while the Temple project was held up because there were cable boxes lying underground and the city was unsure whether it was allowed to dig at the location.

By contrast, Hausladen said, the new crosswalk on Prospect, unlike the other two, was part of the construction project of the two new colleges and was handled separately.

But all three are strikingly similar in their designs.

According to Bechtel, the curb bump-outs help to improve visibility for pedestrians and reduce the distance to safety, while the signs and flashing lights alert drivers to slow down.

Hausladen linked the design of the crosswalks to a larger trend, beginning in part with the 2010 release of a new road design manual in New Haven. That measure aimed to make streets more friendly to pedestrians and bikers, Hausladen said.

Despite years of planning, these projects are not widely known on campus. Seven Yale students interviewed said they either are unaware of the changes or do not feel any substantial impact.

But local residents who have lived in the Elm City for a longer period of time seemed more appreciative of the initiative.

“Over the years I have seen many people crossing here, so it’s definitely better to have it,” said resident Martin Connelly. “Now most of the time cars tend to stop or slow down.”

Malcolm Tang | jiawei.tang@yale.edu

MALCOLM TANG