Before the apartment that is now called University House on 15th Street and 10th Avenue was approved by the Tuscaloosa Planning and Zoning Commission there was a discussion of a sidewalk that crossed the railroad tracks being built. Much was made at the Commission meeting about the complex being accessible to the University of Alabama’s campus by students who choose to walk.
Apparently nothing had been done to establish the viability of constructing the sidewalk before the apartment was approved. A city official explained it in this way: “The walkway across the railroad tracks on 10th Avenue was not approved by the railroad – the Planning Commission didn’t have the authority to require them to construct that walkway across a private entity like the railroad.”
According to a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission the $100,000 that had been provided to build the sidewalk was refunded to the developer.
There is an old narrow sidewalk on the other side of 10th Avenue from where the apartments are located. It winds its way across the tracks in a serpentine fashion around the railroad crossing signal. Asphalt covers the area where the the railroad tracks are crossed.
Many students prefer to walk on the ground and in the street to get to the apartments rather than walk on the existing sidewalk and cross the street at the traffic signal. The railroad put a “No Trespassing” sign in the area.
The phenomena of students preferring not to use sidewalks was commented on by a student leader. It was said that in one area near the campus students were known to “choose to cross the street and walk where there is no sidewalk rather than stay on the side with a sidewalk.” Hopefully a student who is paying more attention to a cellphone than traffic on the unlit path to the apartments will not be hit by a car.
Another dangerous place for pedestrians to cross the street was where the Hugh Thomas Bridge met University Boulevard in Tuscaloosa’s downtown. For some inexplicable reason the speed limit on the bridge had been 55 MPH whereas the speed limit on either side of the bridge on Lurleen Wallace Boulevard was 45 MPH.
Since there is a rise in the bridge as drivers approached University Boulevard, the traffic signal at the junction of the bridge and boulevard could not be seen until vehicles were near the end of the bridge. Since this was considered unsafe, the speed limit for the bridge before the rise was been lowered to 45MPH. And the lower speed limit, which was previously not posted on the boulevard for over a block after crossing the bridge, is now posted at the end of the bridge. It is now less likely that pedestrians crossing with the signal will be hit by someone driving at a faster speed limit. Theoretically the driver who has slowed down will now be able to better observe the traffic signal and come to a stop. Why the speed limit on the rest of the bridge remains at 55MPH, when the speed limit before the bridge is ten miles per hour lower, has no reasonable explanation. In a letter to the editor in the Tuscaloosa News the former City Engineer suggested that some drivers might be expected to drive at 60MPH in a a 55MPH zone.
As a way to reduce the number of pedestrians who were walking on University Boulevard and crossing at the intersection of the bridge, there were discussions years ago at Planning and Zoning Commission meetings of there being a walkway that ran behind the residential buildings located on the boulevard.
A city official has given an update on this: “The ongoing Lurleen Wallace project includes a walkway under the bridges connecting the 4th Street / Greensboro Ave intersection to near the Home 2 Suites. Sidewalks that branch from that walkway will connect to the amphitheater and University Boulevard. The City and ALDOT are sharing in the cost of this work.”
At some time in the future the walkway that was discussed at the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting may come to pass. Someone who attended the meetings could well be forgiven for thinking that the walkway as well as the sidewalk on 10th Avenue were conditions for the approval of projects. Some of the ideas that are tossed out at the meetings are spontaneous. And the Commission is limited on making any conditions for approval of projects. In the end the City Council makes the decisions.