The Palladium-Item reported last night and again today that Earlham College appears to have won an initial victory in getting a traffic signal placed at a critical crossing point on US-40, the 4-lane highway that runs in front of its campus here in Richmond.
The Quaker college has tried for decades to get a traffic signal at its entrance, an effort that began soon after Earlham student David Rantanen was killed crossing the highway in 1962. Since then, two more people have died and several more were hit and injured by vehicles on the four-lane highway near the school's main drive.
While the decision isn't official, the concession on the part of state highway planners that a signal is needed is a major one. I cringe when I'm in a car or walking as a pedestrian in that area, as it really is a game of "look both ways about 10 times and then cross your fingers and run for it" for pedestrians. And while I ascribe no general ill will toward Earlham students on the part of Richmond drivers, it does seem to be a section of road that highlights the inherent disdain that some drivers have for pedestrians in this town. Sometimes they even speed up a little when students are crossing, instead of slowing down.
The usual criticisms are already resurfacing: why should taxpayers pay for a crossing between two parts of a private campus, why didn't Earlham just build a pedestrian bridge with its vast vaults of extra cash, etc. (And as usual, critics are posting their demands for answers in the Pal-Item's online comment section instead of taking them to the people who can actually answer them, which in my mind means they don't really want an answer, they just want to complain.)
But I think we can generally address those concerns by remembering that all of us pay for infrastructure like roads, sidewalks, crossing signals, traffic lights, etc. that may or may not directly benefit our own daily commute - it's nothing new to ask the entities that are responsible for managing that infrastructure to build some new ones in places that are needed. The lives of pedestrians are no less worth protecting as they cross a public road, just because there happens to be privately owned land on either side...that's pretty much how every residential street works.
Congratulations to Earlham for creatively staying on this and to the INDOT folks for (finally) taking heed.