For many years Hal Greer Boulevard has been unfriendly to pedestrians, especially from the railroad underpass south toward Interstate 64. The first project to correct that problem has been announced.
Last week, the KYOVA Interstate Planning Commission announced it had approved funds for two projects to make the area safer for pedestrians. The projects will cost about $1.7 million total.
The first project will construct a Danish crossing near Columbia Avenue near the new Marshall University pharmacy school and Cabell Huntington Hospital. A Danish crossing is a pedestrian refuge in the street. In this case, it will be placed in what is now the center turn lane and allow pedestrians to cross half of the street and wait in a relatively safe place before crossing the rest of the road.
Cabell Huntington Hospital has been advocating for a Danish crossing for several years after a pedestrian was killed in 2013 crossing Hal Greer to return to the hospital to visit her husband, who was a patient.
Unlike 3rd and 5th avenues - which are one-way, high-volume, high-speed streets - Hal Greer is four lanes with a center turn lane for much of its length. The high traffic volume and the speed at which people tend to drive make it hazardous for pedestrians in many places.
The five lanes that separate Cabell Huntington from the restaurants across the street can be dangerous for pedestrians. The five lanes were designed to move a large volume of traffic quickly. Little or no thought was given to pedestrian safety. That was a common practice of highway engineering a decade or two ago, but with more pedestrian and bicycle traffic now, it's a situation that must be corrected. The continued growth of Cabell Huntington Hospital and Marshall University along Hal Greer, particularly south of the underpass, will only make the pedestrian problem worse. It's a good problem to have, but it needs to be addressed.
The Danish crossing will cost about $825,000, according to KYOVA. KYOVA will use funds from a federal Surface Transportation Block Grant Program. The design and environmental studies are to be done by the end of the year, so it will be next year at least before the public sees construction activity there.
A second project announced last week will install new light fixtures along Hal Greer from Washington Boulevard to 3rd Avenue. A portion of the funds for the estimated $950,000 project also is from federal money, but a match from the city of Huntington will be required.
These are the first two of many projects being considered to make the Hal Greer corridor safer for pedestrians and for cyclists. Among them are a 10-foot-wide multiuse path to run the entire length of Hal Greer from Washington Boulevard to 3rd Avenue. Another idea is a protected bike lane from 8th Avenue to 3rd Avenue.
Getting rid of the doglegs, adding high-visibility crosswalks, pedestrian countdowns and similar ideas are in the works.
This is going to be a slow process, but it is a necessary one. Pedestrians have been the overlooked users of Hal Greer Boulevard, and the time is past due to make the area safer for them.