The City of Manhattan began construction of the Manhattan Avenue project this week to bring safer and more efficient crosswalk systems to Manhattan roads, Ken Hays, engineering project coordinator, said.
“The purpose of this construction is to remove the rapid flashers that pedestrians use to cross the street currently and replace this with actual traffic signals,” Hays said. “The purpose of that is to synchronize the signals through there so we don’t have … pedestrians crossing and stopping traffic for unacceptably long times. We’ll basically just be able to bunch the pedestrians and then have everybody walk across the street in groups instead of just straggling across.”
Hays said construction will start Friday and be broken up into phases before the project’s expected completion in February 2024.
“The first phase that’s going to be starting this week and going through probably the middle of October will be the east half of the Vattier and North Manhattan intersection,” Hays said. “Then the contractor’s plan is to keep going north on the east side, so the next intersection is at Kearney. … Then we’re going to go up to Bertrand, and then we’ll go up to Old Claflin.”
Hays said construction teams will work on one side of each intersection at a time to allow for less traffic congestion.
“Once we’re done with the east side, we’ll switch and come back on the west side of North Manhattan and hit each one of those intersections,” Hays said.
Kate Van Brunt, sophomore in marketing, said she lives near the construction site and worries it will make her commute to class difficult.
“I have class in the business building and [the crosswalks] are the most direct route to my classes,” Van Brunt said. “Now I’ll have to reroute which could add up to five minutes onto my walk to class.”
Hays said accommodations have been made for students commuting to class both on foot and by car.
“Part of the traffic control that’s going to be set up is actually not only detours for the vehicular traffic but also detours for the pedestrians so that they know what an alternate route will be instead of the usual route they would take to and from campus,” Hays said.
Van Brunt said she also worries there will be heavy traffic around Manhattan due to the construction.
“If they [drivers] are seeing there’s construction they might turn and add more traffic in front of [my apartment],” Van Brunt said. “It’s just going to be a lot more congested right there.”
Hays said traffic control aims to make driving through construction zones as easy and quick as possible.
“At the first phase there shouldn’t be a detour per say,” Hays said. “Now as we go north and get into some of those other intersections where they have unique concerns and safety may become an issue with not having an alternate route, the alternate route that we set up in general is to utilize our left street to bypass North Manhattan up to Bertrand.”
Aaron Wintermote, public information officer for the Riley County Police Department, said new traffic crossing systems will be safer for drivers and pedestrians.
“Several years ago we had some pretty high profile crashes of people that were walking near campus and did get hit,” Wintermote said. “A lot of those are because people are driving and inattentive and not paying attention to the people walking out. Along campus there are some of those [crosswalks] where it’s just a button and a light flashes, and it is hard to tell because the lights are on the side of the road.”
Hays said it is important that drivers and pedestrians stay alert on the roads while construction takes place.
“Both with people walking downtown and people driving, just be very aware, especially if you’re in a construction zone, that the other person might not be paying as much attention as they should,” Hays said. “Be careful.”