Council supports safety study, stalls Campus and Community Commission

Christie Smith

Increased student and pedestrian safety along Lincoln Way was discussed at the Ames City Council meeting Tuesday night.

ISU administration approached Ames city staff members with an idea for a safety study along the east-west running arterial road, according to city documents. Lincoln Way separates campus, to the north, from Campustown, to the south.

With an increased number of housing options for students in Campustown and the development of a university residence hall on the south side of Lincoln Way, concern about student safety crossing Lincoln Way to get to campus has mounted.

A student was fatally hit by a CyRide bus last semester while trying to cross Lincoln Way at Ash Avenue. Another student was injured when struck by a car while crossing Lincoln Way at Beach Avenue in February.

During a City Council meeting in February, ex-officio representative Sam Schulte said he was concerned about students who frequently got stopped in the middle of two-way traffic at the median while attempting to cross Lincoln Way.

The safety study, dubbed the Lincoln Way Pedestrian Crossing Data Collection and Analysis, will focus on non-motorized travel in the areas on and near Lincoln Way between University Boulevard and Sheldon Avenue.

The study will collect data including the number of people crossing Lincoln Way and intersecting streets, the number of vehicles passing through each intersection and the number and locations of mid-block crossings. The study will also collect information on other safety features such as light poles.

To complete the study, the university will partner with SRF Consulting Group, according to city staff. Iowa State previously worked with SRF Consulting Group to improve pedestrian safety on campus. Council members voted 6-0 to approve the scope of the study and to reimburse Iowa State for half of the consulting fees. The estimated total cost is about $100,000.

The study will be conducted in two phases. Data collection and analysis will occur in the first phase with the use of video cameras, public input surveys and historical data collected from the city.

In the second phase, the study will identify safety concerns and address potential solutions for pedestrians.

Several possibilities will be available for public participation in the study, according to city documents. In addition to an online survey for public input, the project will include a study group composed of ISU staff, ISU Student Government representatives, city staff and consultants to identify the areas of concern and review modifications.

A public meeting will take place at the Memorial Union once the study is complete, and the consultants’ findings will be presented to the public before being presented at a City Council meeting as the final step.

To extend the discussion of student concerns beyond pedestrian safety, Schulte and Trevin Ward, president of the Campustown Action Association, wrote a letter to the council in February suggesting the rebirth of the Student Affairs Commission as the Campus and Community Commission. The focus of the commission is to focus, appropriately, on issues unique to campus and the surrounding communities.

The commission was originally created in 2008 as the Student Affairs Commission and was allocated 15 members from a variety of student and city organizations. Since 2008, the commission saw low retention from members, and various student representatives reported feeling a lack of efficacy in the organization.

Schulte, now the out-going ex-officio representative, said it was one of his goals to strengthen the commission before leaving his seat on the council.

Schulte and Ward provided a list of relevant concerns for the commission to consider, including overnight parking, security cameras and pedestrian safety in and around Campustown. They also suggested that City Council, Student Government, the Campustown Action Association and ISU administration provide the commission with goals for each year.

The new commission would be made up of five to seven members from ISU administration, Student Government, the Campustown Action Association, local businesses and representatives from neighborhoods near campus.

Council members expressed concern that university administrators had not yet been included in the planning process, while Councilman Tim Gartin, Ward 2, said he was not convinced that the Student Affairs Commission needed to be completely reinvented, despite its two years of inactivity.

Council members voted unanimously to postpone deliberation on the proposal in order to give Schulte additional time to consult with ISU administration and the new Student Government body.