Walk this way

Published 3:43 pm Tuesday, November 15, 2022

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MURFREESBORO – Union Street in Murfreesboro runs through parts of Chowan University’s campus as it connects drivers from Main Street to NC Highway 11. Currently, the road only has two crosswalks for pedestrians, but that may change in the future.

Representatives from the university spoke at the Murfreesboro Town Council meeting held on Nov. 9 to share their plans to improve safety with a proposal to upgrade and add crosswalks to that particular street.

Danny Davis, who serves as Chowan’s Vice President of Business Affairs, explained they’ve been in talks with partners about projects on Union Street as far back as 2019, but they’ve recently gained more traction to move forward. He explained that this crosswalk proposal was a result of recent collaborative meetings with the NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT) since Union Street is a state-maintained road.

Alex Chappell, Chowan’s Director of Facilities and Grounds, shared details of the proposal to the council.

There are currently two pedestrian crosswalks on Union Street, with one located to connect the commuter student parking lot at the corner of Sewell Street and the other located in front of the Hawks Athletic Center.

Chappell reported that NCDOT plans to widen both crosswalks and restripe the lines to make them more noticeable. The proposal will also add flashing crosswalk signs that will be solar-powered and motion activated. He added that they’d also like to add a chirping sound to assist any visually-impaired pedestrians, but those details were still being worked out.

Additionally, the proposal will add two more crosswalks on Union Street, with one located in front of Parker Hall residence dorm and another by the tennis courts near the Whites Crossing residences. Both new crosswalks would have the same upgraded features as the existing ones. The proposal also called for adding new sidewalks at those new crosswalks which would extend far enough to tie into already existing sidewalks on Union Street.

Chappell also said that they were working on trying to improve the lighting with new poles and upgrades to existing ones.

“We’re talking to Dominion in reference to getting additional lighting on the poles that are already there,” he explained. “It does get really dark [in that area] at night.”

Davis wrapped up their presentation by asking for the town’s support as the project moves forward. They were still waiting on approval from the NCDOT, but wanted the town to be aware of their plans too since Union Street is located within the town’s limits.

Council member David Brown stated that the plan sounded like a great idea, and he would even be in favor of lowering the speed limit on Union Street if possible. During council comments at the end of the meeting, Berna Stephens also agreed with the idea of trying to decrease the speed limit.

“We won’t be doing anything monetarily,” said Mayor Hal Thomas after the presentation, but did add that they would be happy to provide support for grant applications and similar actions.

The council did not hold an official vote on the matter, but took an informal consensus of support for the project. That consensus was unanimous.

As previously reported by the News Herald, a Chowan University student was struck by a vehicle on Sept. 21 as he was crossing from the Parker Hall residence dorm to the baseball fields located on the other side of Union Street. The incident occurred around 8 p.m. that evening, and there was no crosswalk at that location.

The vehicle was a Hertford County Sheriff’s Office car operated by a deputy who was en route at the time to the scene of a motor vehicle accident.