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Brandeis, Waltham announce plans to improve safety of crosswalk where 3 students were struck

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  February 26, 2014 04:03 PM

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Brandeis University and Waltham city officials have announced plans to try to improve the safety of a busy crosswalk on South Street where three students were hit by a car earlier this month.

Measures will include installing “rapid-flash beacons” that resemble police strobe lights at the crosswalk, a motion detection system to activate warning lights at the crosswalk that will eliminate the need for pedestrians to push a button, and spotlights above the crosswalk.

Officials said steps will also be taken to brighten existing street lighting in the area around the crosswalk.

“These enhancements will be made as quickly as possible in compliance with city policies and procedures and with regard to weather conditions and the possible need for temporary street closures,” the university said in an announcement this week.

Until the motion detection system is installed, larger signs will be hung at the crosswalk telling pedestrians to push the crosswalk light activation button.

On Sunday, Feb. 2, at about 6:25 p.m., three undergraduates were walking east in the crosswalk when they were struck by a car traveling north and driven by a 42-year-old man from Belmont, authorities have said.

The students were hospitalized with serious injuries, but were listed in stable condition later that night. A spokeswoman for the Middlesex district attorney’s office said this week that the matter remains under investigation.

A day after the incident, police and students told the Globe that the crosswalk, located on a city-controlled roadway that cuts through Brandeis’ campus, presents dangers for both pedestrians and drivers.

Neon yellow signs warn drivers in either direction to be cautious when approaching crosswalk, and pedestrians can push a button to activate flashing yellow lights before they cross.

But the crosswalk sits at the crest of a hill, and the street bends several times as it cuts through the university campus, reducing sight lines and reaction times for drivers and pedestrians.

Students can cross over South Street by using a pedestrian bridge a short distance away. But some students said the bridge can be inconvenient and a bit out of the way, depending on where they are coming from and going to on campus.

“The safety of our community is paramount, and Brandeis immediately took steps to reach out to the City of Waltham to address safety issues in the area,” the university said in a statement this week.

“We are grateful to the Waltham Police Department for their stepped-up enforcement of vehicle speed limits and crosswalk safety in the area, particularly around dusk, which have been very helpful in reinforcing to drivers and the Brandeis community that there is a need to exercise extreme caution in the area,” the statement added.

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com. Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

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