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Old Infrastructure To Blame For Bloomington Gridlock?

Students are back and there are often traffic backups near IU’s campus. But the problem could be outdated infrastructure.

10th Street Pedestrians

Photo: Stan Jastrzebski

Bloomington traffic backups may be due to streets not designed to handle the foot and vehicle traffic on them.

It happens every day on Indiana University’s campus – hundreds of students wait for cars to go by, and then lines of cars stack up to pass the pedestrian crosswalk on Tenth Street in front of the Wells library.

It can be a dangerous situation for pedestrians and a frustrating one for drivers like Marshall Brown, who typically avoids this area.

“There’s like a ten minute line that you have to wait through,” Brown said. “It’s just because people are walking across. There’s like a gap where one car can go through, and then everyone has to wait like another minute, and then another car can go, and they just wait another minute. So it takes forever.”

The crosswalk is a result of an accident in 2009 when a student was struck and killed while crossing nearby Fee Lane. It was then that IU Police Chief Keith Cash says he was forced to take measures to make pedestrian safety a top priority.

“The provost [Karen Hanson] put together a commission, which I was a part of, to look at safer places for folks to be able to cross,” Cash said. “And what those are called are mid-block crosswalks.”

These mid-block crosswalks, as Cash explains, are a compromise.  He said the city’s infrastructure was built to support a population of around 30,000.  He recognizes that some drivers are frustrated by the traffic, but he says at 80,000 residents — 40,000 of which are students, the city and the campus simply have to make sacrifices to keep people safe.

“Tenth street can barely hold the traffic as it is. Matter of fact, you’ll see, there’s times when cars are bumper to bumper almost stopped, and people are still crossing cause they can cross cause cars are stopped. It has nothing to do with the crosswalk. I don’t know what the remedy to that is,” Cash said.

According to Bloomington Transit bus driver Andy Wobler, the safety conditions downtown have not improved enough as pedestrians still cross whenever they “feel like it.”

“You have to look like an owl, you know, to watch for pedestrians,” Wobler said.

Cash said since the accident in 2009, there have not been any fatal car-pedestrian interactions on campus.

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