Preliminary discussions between Sam Houston State University and the city of Huntsville have reignited regarding construction of crosswalks on streets that run through campus.
Sixty-thousand dollars were allocated in the city’s Fiscal Year 2013-14 budget to fund the project, and after a year of negotiations and delays, SHSU Student Body President Spencer Copeland hopes to see the crosswalks constructed by the end of the year.
Copeland said he has met with university and city officials to discuss the locations of the crosswalks and is meeting with university officials again later this week.
“Safety, overall, is a huge concern,” Copeland said. “With the population busting 20,000 this year, and with all of the walking from campus to the stadium, to the intramural fields, to the green parking lots, to the library, to the Gaertner Performing Arts Center and the Coliseum, how many students a day cross [campus roads]? That alone is enough.”
Huntsville City Council member Tish Humphrey has joined Copeland in discussions with the university to help communication efforts and further emphasize the joint effort between the city and SHSU.
However, thus far, neither the city nor SHSU has taken the lead on the project, according to Huntsville City Manager Matt Benoit.
“The delay has really stemmed from who is going to take the lead, who is going to be responsible, how is this going to be rolled out, and how can we do this in a way that the city does something that does right by the university, does right by the students, and does right by the taxpayers who are funding the improvements,” Benoit said.
Benoit said he would prefer the university to take the lead, but the city remains active and invested in the project.
“I was wanting the university to take the lead, recognizing whatever happens here is probably going to affect [SHSU] more than [the city],” he said. “The university’s opinion, as I have understood, has been that’s a public street and it is the city’s responsibility to be affecting improvements to a public street. I understand what they are saying, and I don’t necessarily disagree with that.”
Benoit is drafting an inter-local agreement which would detail deliverable and financial responsibilities for the city and the university to take the project forward and has agreed to have the city take the lead in hiring an engineer and pay for design work. He said the most important thing to guarantee a move forward is to have signatures from both parties on the agreement.
Benoit said his initial conversations with university officials have been positive in the sense there is a “willingness to do something…there is something that needs to be done.”
Neither the locations of where the crosswalks will be constructed nor the quantity have been determined as the project is in its infant stage. However, the goal remains the same between Benoit and Copeland as they push to calm traffic and allow safe pedestrian crossings.
“I want student government to say ‘hey students need this, how can we facilitate talks and conversations to make sure this gets done,’” Copeland said.
Associate Vice President for Facilities Management Doug Greening declined to comment for this article.