Pedestrians nervous to walk along the North St. Mary’s strip will have to wait a few years before millions of dollars are turned into more noticeable safety improvements near the half mile stretch of bars, clubs, and restaurants. However, they are coming.
“St. Mary’s has been on our radar for many months,” said Arthur Reinhardt, assistant director of the city’s transportation and capital improvements department.
City officials have made pedestrian safety a priority. So far, in 2017, there have been 28 pedestrian deaths in San Antonio. Under the Vision Zero program, which aims in part to eliminate pedestrian deaths, some funds have been dedicated to a mid-block pedestrian crossing further south on St. Mary’s.
Reinhardt and Deputy City Manager Peter Zanoni spoke with the Rivard Report on Friday, two weeks after the transportation department spent $8,700 removing a crosswalk clandestinely installed by an anonymous group. The individuals told the Rivard Report they were concerned about what they consider to be inadequate pedestrian infrastructure along the busy strip.
Zanoni and Reinhardt outlined the city’s timeline for spending $7 million in bond money on the half mile portion of North St. Mary’s from East Mistletoe to Josephine Street, where pedestrian traffic seems to be the heaviest.
“It’s focusing on pedestrian improvements,” Reinhardt said, adding that sidewalk connectivity, intersection improvements, pedestrian infrastructure, increased street lighting, and signal enhancements are all viable improvements to be constructed in 2019.
Before construction starts, the city must design the upgrades based on community input. Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) said he wants to help facilitate that communication between his constituents and the transportation agency staff in 2018.
Citizens can suggest infrastructure improvements by directly reaching out to their council representative, contacting the department, or by calling 311.
“We can track [calls made], we can follow up, contact the people [and] let them know the work’s been done,” Reinhardt said. “Any request, whether its a pothole, to an engineering investigation, or traffic review.”
Reinhardt said that there were no calls made to 311 about the East Mistletoe and North St. Mary’s intersection, which will not receive a new crosswalk.
“National studies have shown that when you put a crosswalk in a residential neighborhood, it has no impact on safety or vehicle speed reduction,” Zanoni said. “Generally crosswalks, with the exception of school zones, are for major arterial or collector roads.”
Zanoni said the clandestine crosswalk was removed because it was dangerously misdirecting the traffic turning right off of N. St. Mary’s onto E. Mistletoe. The increased turn radius created by the group’s dangerously drawn perimeters caused vehicles to overturn into the opposite lane, creating an increased chance for head on collisions.
Moreover, connecting solid white lines to the bike lanes along Mistletoe technically closed off the entrance to them off N. St. Mary’s. Those $22,000 bike lanes were finished this past August and were paid for out of the district 1 neighborhood access and mobility program.
Each council member has an annual allotment of $200,000 in their respective NAM programs to address infrastructural needs at their discretion. Along with offering protection to bikers, the E. Mistletoe bike lanes also slow the speed of cars by shortening the space they have in their lane.
Beyond the bond funds and money for the neighborhood access program, the city is also spending its annual $1 million Vision Zero funds on pedestrian safety improvements.