SMU Students Aim to Save Lives at Busy Intersection

Research project suggests a road diet, paving access to Katy Trail

A group of students from Southern Methodist University has been working on a class project that is aimed at saving lives at a busy Uptown Dallas intersection.

Fresh and Fit Fitzhugh’ is a research paper that will be presented Thursday. It focuses on pedestrian safety at Fitzhugh Avenue and Travis Street, three blocks west of U.S. Highway 75/Central Expressway.

“The proposal will result in two main outcomes on Fitzhugh,” the paper states. “Double pedestrian traffic and reduce vehicular speeds by 20 percent.”

In recent years, at least two pedestrians have been hit and killed while crossing at that intersection, in addition to a young woman who was paralyzed as a result of a crash, according to the researchers.

“One of the things we teach in the class is that if you have a problem in your community you actually have to begin to solve it,” said Dr. Eric Bing, a professor of Global Health at SMU, who oversaw the project.

Among the students’ recommendations: reduce Fitzhugh from six lanes across to four, a road diet, to “create an opportunity to make the street friendlier to pedestrian traffic, simultaneously reducing average traffic speed as well as attracting businesses,” according to the report.

“Driving slower is something that I hate to do. I’m a big proponent of driving fast,” said SMU student David L. Smith, with a laugh. “This city is a driving city, and I understand a lot of people want to get to where they’re going. But we’ve had deaths on this street just from people walking back and forth, and I think driving fast – there’s no amount of driving fast that’s equal to losing a life.”

In addition to the Fitzhugh road diet, the students recommend adding a paved access ramp to replace the current dirt path that is used to access the Katy Trail.

Based on the students’ research, “an estimated 500,000 pedestrians and cyclists passed through Fitzhugh Avenue on the Katy Trail in a six-month period of 2016.”

“The only way to do that [safely travel from Fitzhugh onto the Trail] is to create a real access point and to make this street more crossable,” said SMU student Trevor Dickey. “As it is right now it’s very difficult to actually navigate the area.”

The students will present their plan to the Better Block Foundation on Thursday. Better Block is a nonprofit “that educates, equips and empowers communities and their leaders to reshape and reactively build environments to promote the growth of health and vibrant neighborhoods.”

If Better Block approves of the plan, the group could, in turn, “help convince the city or community to make and fund” the changes permanently, according to the report.

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