UT Tyler looks to improve pedestrian, traffic safety as it expands

Published on Monday, 30 October 2017 17:42 - Written by CORY MCCOY, comccoy@tylerpaper.com

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The University of Texas at Tyler is working to make its campus safer for pedestrians.

UT Tyler President Dr. Michael Tidwell sent out an email to faculty and students calling for short-term solutions to unsafe walking conditions, after an Oct. 22 wreck left student athlete Justin Bartie in intensive care.

Tidwell said pedestrian safety was an issue that stuck out when he first arrived on campus in January of this year.

Tidwell has been working with the City of Tyler and Smith County to slow or limit traffic on Old Omen Road and University Boulevard. He also has made pedestrian safety a priority in planning the school’s upcoming master plan.

“We’re looking at a couple of things, I think the biggest one is a new master plan for the entire campus that takes into account all of the pedestrian needs and challenges we’ve had as a campus,” Tidwell said. “We’re going to continue to grow as a campus and we need to make sure our students feel safe.”

Tidwell said the layout of the campus presents unique challenges with roadways running through the campus and its main thoroughfares under maintenance of the city and county. Old Omen Road is maintained by the city of Tyler, while University Boulevard falls under the county’s purview.

Since purchasing the 120 acres known as the East Campus last year, the university has been in discussions with the city and county to find ways to create a safe environment for motorists and pedestrians as the campus expands to the other side of Old Omen. The East Campus area is situated at the end of McDonald Road and stretches to behind The Reserve apartments on University Boulevard.

“While these long-term plans and efforts can be helpful, we see a clear need for immediate improvements for pedestrian safety,” Tidwell said in the statement. “We will start construction on these improvements to make UT Tyler a more pedestrian-friendly campus in the coming weeks.”

Tidwell said the campus has committed to a renewed focus on education and also will be examining where to place new sidewalks and crosswalks.

Other future options could include stop lights, speed bumps and even some discussion of a pedestrian bridge as University Boulevard is expanded.

Smith County currently is expanding University Boulevard between Old Omen and Highway 64 East.

Tidwell said he visited Bartie over the weekend and the university is committed to doing what it can to ensure the campus is safe for pedestrians.