UMass hires firm to assess pedestrian safety on campus

The recommendations will be implemented beginning summer of 2022

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Collegian File Photo

By Alex Genovese, Assistant News Editor

Following multiple accidents involving vehicles and students on campus in recent months, the University of Massachusetts has hired a firm to develop recommendations to improve pedestrian safety according to University spokesperson Ed Blaguszewski.

The firm, VHB, will be partnering with the UMass Transportation Center in the College of Engineering to work on five major points: reducing vehicle speeds on campus, providing consistent pavement markings/signage/lights/signals, improving pedestrian crossing points, enhancing bicycle accommodations and improving visibility.

“We bring together the right resources and knowledge, technical excellence, and a wide network of trusted relationships to deliver value—so that our clients can make the right decisions to move their projects forward,” VHB’s website reads. VHB has four locations in Massachusetts, with the closest being in Springfield.

“VHB will provide short-term recommendations for pedestrian improvements that we project can be implemented during the summer of 2022,” Blaguszewski explained. He added that the improvements will focus on the “four-lane roads of Massachusetts and Commonwealth avenues.”

VHB was hired in light of two unrelated incidents where students were struck by vehicles. One student, Elena Lucore, died after being struck by another student on Massachusetts Avenue. Another student was seriously injured following a hit-and-run also on Massachusetts Avenue. The driver, a non-UMass student, is facing five charges stemming from the incident.

Pratham Sachan, a sophomore studying computer science, noted that he was initially worried about walking around campus following the accidents. “I never expected fellow students to be involved in a hit-and-run,” he said. He explained that he’s felt safer by proactive efforts by the UMass Police Department. He also noted that drivers have a higher responsibility for driving around campus. “It is our priority as drivers to be able to predict the patterns of pedestrians and follow the law.”

The Student Government Association voted on a pedestrian safety initiative at a recent meeting. The initiative involves education, enforcement and engineering and was proposed by the Chair of the Social Justice and Empowerment Committee, Audrey Gabriel.

“I think university students and faculty agree a change needs to be made to make crosswalks and general safety a bigger priority,” Julia Curto, the SGA Speaker, explained. “I am incredibly proud of [this initiative] as it is a foot in the right direction towards making this university safer.”

Alex Genovese can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @alex_genovese1.