Davidson pedestrian safety is goal of new traffic measures

Traffic measures set to launch in Davidson this week aim to make it safer for people to cross busy intersections.

On Tuesday night, the state is scheduled to alter the timing of three pedestrian crosswalk signals on Main Street so people will be farther into the crosswalks before cars approach.

On Thursday, state Department of Transportation crews also plan to change the speed limit signs on Davidson-Concord Road from 55 mph to 45 mph from south of Robert Walker Drive to N.C. 73.

Residents and town officials have pushed for those and other changes after two pedestrian deaths downtown and the serious injuring of a pedestrian on Davidson-Concord Road in recent years.

In April, well-known Davidson pet sitter Janet McFadden, 49, died when a truck turning from South Street hit her as she walked two dogs in the crosswalk on South Main. One of the dogs also was killed. Jeffery Wilburn, 38, of Rock Hill, the driver of the Republic Services of Charlotte truck, was charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle.

Beloved Davidson College professor Robert Whitton died in November 2011, days after he was struck by a sport utility vehicle in a crosswalk on Concord Road. He was on his way home from campus on a rainy night.

After Whitton’s death, the town underwent a safety campaign with more signage and education and billed itself as pedestrian-friendly. But residents and town officials have continued to push the state for added improvements.

Beginning Tuesday night, the “walk” signal for pedestrians is scheduled to display three seconds before the green signal for drivers at the Main Street intersections with Griffith Street, Concord Road and Chairman Blake Lane/South Street.

Studies have shown the safety of pedestrians improves 60 percent with such a delay in the light turning green, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Flashing yellow arrows have been added to the signals to further alert drivers to people in the crosswalks. Nine new permanent signs tell turning drivers to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalks.

The state DOT also plans to lower the speed limit from 45 mph to 35 mph on Davidson-Concord Road between the East Rocky River roundabout and Robert Walker Drive, once the WestBranch housing development is 25-percent occupied. Developer Lennar Carolinas plans 300 homes in the 170-acre development.

“Citizens, the board of commissioners, town staff, and I have been working on these much-sought improvements to benefit our community,” Davidson Mayor John Woods said in a statement announcing the improvements. “We appreciate the efforts of NCDOT to make these changes.”

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak