It was a trip Alex Cox had made before: Crossing Utica Pike from Duffy’s Landing into Cherokee Estates.
On Sept. 13, Alex didn’t make it to his house. He was hit by a car while trying to cross Utica Pike to go home for dinner.
Nancy Cox, Alex’s mother, attended the Board of Public Works meeting last week to ask that something be done to improve safety along the roadway. Despite the driver of the vehicle going the speed limit, and the kids —12-year-old Alex was with his older brother and an exchange student living with the Cox family — looking before they tried to cross the street, they still didn’t see one another. Alex was hit by the car around 6:30 p.m. that Friday.
“I think the biggest problem was, the lady coming from Utica, was the lack of visibility,” Nancy Cox said.
Despite driving the road regularly, she didn’t realize how poor visibility is at the boat launch and park along the Ohio River.
“I guess I didn’t realize how blind that hill is on the opposite end,” she said. “We are very fortunate [Alex] is going to be OK.”
Nancy Cox said her son is expected to make a full recovery, but she wants to see some kind of safety measure put in place for the people accessing Duffy’s Landing.
“I had already been concerned about people trying to cross the road in that area,” she said. “There are a lot of children from our neighborhood that go into that area to play in the grassy field. If a crosswalk would have been [there], away from the hill, it would have given both more time to react.”
Along with the request to install a crosswalk, Janet Purlee, with the Terraces of Park Place Neighborhood Association, presented a number of suggested safety measures that could be implemented and that had been signed by a handful of the residents who live near Duffy’s Landing.
Among the suggested safety measures were: lowering the speed limit; installing signage to notify drivers of bicyclists and pedestrians; increased police enforcement in the area; and additional warning signs at Duffy’s Landing.
But the board was hesitant to agree to move forward on some of the suggested improvements, especially a crosswalk.
“I tell you what a crosswalk does to me is, it scares the daylights out of me,” said Mayor Mike Moore, a member of the board of public works. “Because a kid is going to think it’s safe to cross here, and some idiot is going to be flying through there.”
Bryan Glover, city councilman and board of public works member, echoed Moore’s concern about installing a crosswalk at the site. Glover added that Utica Pike has become one of three main arteries people use to get through the city.
“As much as I hate to say it, I don’t know if any of these things that you say here will slow traffic down because we are growing and we just don’t have the room for people to move the way that they want to move,” he said.
Moore said he’s not ignoring the safety issue and asked for the city council’s help to implement a plan he proposed in May. He asked that the council approve moving forward on the 23-mile bike-and-hike trail proposed as part of a list of 10 projects he identified to be funded by tax-increment financing districts.
“It’s more than a bike trail, it’s a public safety issue,” Moore said. “I think that is a great place to extend our bike trail.”
Moore’s bike-and-hike plan calls for bike paths and trails to be constructed, creating a loop around the city, for $3 million. The trail carries a six-year timeline for completion.
“I need the council’s support and I’m asking for it,” Moore said.
Along with the bike-and-hike proposal, Moore has moved forward on a plan to expand Duffy’s Landing, with the city’s redevelopment commission buying several nearby lots to preserve the property as a greenspace. The plan is to increase the parking and the park area at Duffy’s Landing to be able to handle greater boat traffic. The expanded boat landing would help answer the elimination of a boat launch downtown that would be scrapped with the mayor’s planned marina improvements.
But Moore said he is getting some resistance from the city council for the Duffy’s Landing plan.
Concerns about the legality of Duffy’s Landing were recently raised by the council when it also questioned the process the redevelopment commission had used to lease property to two museums downtown that were formerly part of the defunct canal project. The council questioned why redevelopment bought the property and was going to exclude development on the site, and how the adjacent property to Duffy’s Landing could be purchased even though it lies outside the city’s TIF districts.
A pedestrian and bicycle masterplan study completed by the city’s planning department earlier this year also identified the Utica Pike corridor as one of four priority corridors that needed to be addressed. Market Street and Utica Pike, which runs from Spring Street to Utica, received an F rating north of Jeffboat, which includes the Duffy’s Landing area.
Jeffersonville Planning Director Shane Corbin said a cycle track, which is a pathway separated from the road that could accommodate two-way bike traffic, is the designated improvement for the area. It would separate the ever-increasing bike and pedestrian traffic along Utica Pike from the roadway. According to the bicycle and pedestrian plan, the cost to improve the six-mile Market Street/Utica Pike corridor totals $11.7 million.
“That is a long-range vision,” Corbin said. “The short-range vision is share the road signage.”
Moore said he would like to see the bike-and-hike project, especially the Utica Pike portion, start in the spring, and with the property the redevelopment commission has already purchased, the overall right-of-way expenses would be lower.
“Until the city council supports this idea, it goes nowhere,” he said. “It is a beautiful asset the city has overlooking the Ohio River. We are well aware of the dangers there.”