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MIT Gets Traffic Light for Memorial Drive

MIT Funds Project For Crosswalk Safety After Student Injury

By Brian Loux


MIT is funding a public works project that includes the installation a traffic light between MacGregor Dormitory and No. 6 Club, which will make Memorial Drive safer for pedestrians.

The decision to build the light came after MIT student Kathryn M. Walters ’05 was injured by a speeding car while crossing Memorial Drive in early September.

“MIT and the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) put together a traffic study right after the pedestrian accident,” said Jay LaChance, spokesman for the MDC. “From this incident, the need for pedestrian safety was identified and MIT offered to pay for the signals to help accelerate the process.”

Less than a month after the accident, plans to increase safety were drafted, and the contractor Webster Engineering was hired to develop the project.

“I’m very happy it’s going in, because I still have to go to the boathouse [for crew practice] every day, and the cars just don’t stop,” said Walters, who made a full recovery from her injuries.

“I’m glad to still be around,” she added. “MIT was very cool about it, and they even had a dean come to my room to help me out.”

Walters’ case is not an isolated incident of the danger that pedestrians face while crossing Memorial Drive. Four years ago on Halloween night, a car fatally struck Michele Micheletti ’00 while she was crossing the street. However, her death did not appear to play a significant role in the decision to install the traffic light.

Light should be up by January

The project began in early October, and is presently scheduled for completion by New Year’s Eve.

“We are trying to get the majority of the work done, especially the traffic light, before the end of the year,” said Michael Delany, Superintendent on the job at Webster Engineering.

“However, it may drift into next year. The landscaping of the area, for example, will most likely be done in the spring,” he said.

In addition to the installation of the traffic light, there will be a completely concrete inlay walkway across Memorial Drive instead of the painted crosswalk that is there now.

The contractors will install new drainage catch basins and relocatE the electric lights and poles in the construction area.

“We’re also going to realign the intersection,” said Delany. “Right now all four streets are not exactly perpendicular to each other. When we are done they will all line up, which will make the intersection safer.”

The construction that has limited Memorial Drive to only one lane of traffic has had a minimal effect on traffic congestion, but it has made cars slow down significantly.

“There really aren’t too many problems here,” said Delany. “There is a much worse situation over on Wadsworth street across the river where we are doing a similar project.”

Some students were pleased with the resulting traffic flow. “At least now the construction will slow the cars down!” said Sameera S. Ponda ’04.

Once the traffic light is installed and connected to a power supply, it will immediately become operational. Delany was not certain when the light itself would be erected, but he said it would be “soon.”

Students pleased with new light

Student reaction to the plan has been very supportive. Many students have been very displeased with the traffic on Memorial Drive, and are eager to see change.

“Usually it’s not that bad when you can find gaps in the traffic, but around rush hour, crossing becomes ridiculous,” said Kavitha S. Ramaswamy ’04, who recalled a narrow miss with a Memorial Drive car. “They do not go the 35 mph speed limit, and on top of that, they are very aggressive. Overall it’s very dangerous.”

A large street sign which requires cars to yield to pedestrian traffic at the crosswalk stands almost directly outside the Wadsworth Pierce boathouse, which is home to both the men’s and women’s crew teams. However, many crew members have said that the sign is usually ignored by drivers.

“They are supposed to yield to pedestrians, but they are very disrespectful,” said Ines Sherifi ’04.

“They don’t stop for anyone!” said Ponda. “I’ve tried to walk across, and they have no respect for pedestrians.”

Mixed feelings accompany the new traffic light, as many students wonder why it took so long for the school to recognize that this was a problem for students.

“How could there have been no traffic light before?” asked Sherifi. “Did they expect us to walk from Next House to Mass. Avenue and then back to the boathouse?”

“It’s a good idea but I think [the light] should have been closer to main campus,” said Ramaswamy. “I think most people cross to get to the boathouse.”