It’s not exactly what Little Star School requested, but a new crosswalk will be painted at the intersection of White and Norfolk avenues in Winthrop to make it safer for the school’s students to access the new Winthrop public library that will open on June 11.
At last week’s Winthrop Town Council meeting, Little Star Executive Director Brad Halm asked the council to consider adding a crosswalk mid-block on Norfolk, and also creating an opening in the wooden rail fence that parallels the Susie Stephens recreational trail between the school and library, because it’s expected that the school’s students will use the new library frequently.
Halm told the council that several organizations in the area including Jamie’s Place, Friends of the Winthrop Library, Methow Valley Wellness Center, Winthrop Physical Therapy and Fitness and Mt. Gardner Inn met in February to discuss common goals for cooperation and agreed to support a crosswalk on Norfolk.
Winthrop Mayor Sally Ranzau pointed out that there is opening in the fence along the Stephens Trail farther to the east that students could use. Halm said that accessing the opening would require walking the kids down the street, rather than simply crossing directly, and that a mid-block crossing would be safter and more convenient.
Winthrop Public Works Director Jeff Sarvis countered that the proposed crossing is not warranted — meaning it would not meet the typical technical requirements for such an installation — and that mid-block crosswalks are in fact statistically less safe. He said he didn’t believe a crosswalk would slow traffic or make things safer for pedestrians. “But this is Winthrop, so I thought about it,” Sarvis said.
Costs could also be a factor, Sarvis said, particularly making a crossing ADA-compliant. “We talking thousands [of dollars], not hundreds,” for ADA compliance, he said. Some of the public parking along Norfolk would also have to be eliminated to improve visibility, Sarvis said.
After some council discussion, consensus moved toward instead painting a new crosswalk at the intersection of Norfolk and White avenues, and at the same time opening up the Stephens Trail fence at a spot between the school and library. Sarvis said he would start working on those projects immediately.
The council also agreed to revisit the idea of installing flashing warning lights on White Avenue to alert drivers to the Stephens Trail crossing of that street. A few years back, it was decided to forego flashing lights because they would be inconsistent with the town’s Westernization code. However, with more traffic expected on the street and on the trail when the library opens, Ranzau said now is a good time to reconsider whether flashing lights would be appropriate.