The lack of marked street crossings in Picayune poses a safety issue

Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 4, 2015

A RARITY: This is the only marked crosswalk with traffic control devices in Picayune. It’s located on Sycamore Road. Photo by Jeremy Pittari

A RARITY: This is the only marked crosswalk with traffic control devices in Picayune. It’s located on Sycamore Road.
Photo by Jeremy Pittari

The city of Picayune does not have many marked crosswalks. With limited sidewalks, and even fewer marked crosswalks, pedestrians are at the mercy of motorists. Fortunately most people in the area are considerate.

Anyone who has shopped in downtown Picayune has noticed the lack of marked crosswalks, but may not give it a second thought because for the most part motorists are happy to let them cross without issue.

However, accidents have occurred. Mickey Fluitt, owner of the local Mickle’s Pickles, was stuck by a vehicle while trying to cross U.S. 11 towards the post office in October of last year. 

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“The city of Picayune has done a wonderful job of sprucing up this town with the installation of street lights, landscaping and street signage,” Fluitt said in previous Item coverage of the accident. “But there’s one more thing that really should be addressed and that’s pedestrian crosswalks.”

Other merchants along West Canal Street had varying opinions on the lack of marked crosswalks.

Gerry Samples, owner of the local Western Auto, said in the 44 years she’s worked in downtown Picayune, she’s only had a problem crossing the street a handful of times. She said for the most part drivers are more than willing to stop and let people cross the street. She said she crosses the street regularly to conduct regular business at the bank. 

While she’s not had a major problem crossing the street, she would like to see crosswalks marked along the busy street.

“I think it would help the businesses in the Main Street area by making it safer,” Samples said.

Tori Broadway works at Larry’s Dry Cleaners and has to cross West Canal Street, especially during the busy hour of 5 p.m. However, she said she doesn’t have a problem crossing the street at quitting time.

“They always stop and always let me cross,” Broadway said about the local motorists.

But if crosswalks were marked on the street, Broadway said it would make it clear that cars are supposed to yield the right of way to pedestrians. 

Along city streets a stop sign is supposed to work as notification to yield to pedestrians, City Engineer Vernon Moore said. 

In order to put crosswalk markings on a city street, Moore estimates it would cost about $2,000 to hire a striping crew, and even then the work would not be permanent.

The most well known crosswalks in the city are where schools have children that walk to and from school, such as on Goodyear Boulevard and along Rosa Street. The newest marked crosswalk, installed at the intersection of Sycamore Road and Highland Parkway, includes traffic control devices. However, pedestrians are rarely seen using that crosswalk.

City Manager Jim Luke said as a general rule the city prioritizes where they put crosswalk markings, typically focusing on areas where school traffic is common. He said if the city installed them everywhere, they would lose their effect.

Additionally, marked crosswalks provide a false sense of security, Moore said.

However, Luke said the city is looking into installing some crosswalks at key areas of the city, such as at the intersections of West Canal and Main Street and Main Street and Goodyear Boulevard. His initial plan is to attempt to use some of the leftover brick pavers from the construction of the parking spaces along Main Street, but nothing is set in stone.

While it would be up to the city to mark crosswalks along city maintained streets, establishing them along U.S. 11 would be a different story. Luke said that would involve working with the Mississippi Department of Transportation. Luke said he’s spoken with Commissioner Tom King, and intends to follow up.

Public Works Director Eric Morris said in a written statement that Tuesday’s City Council meeting will include a “taste” of preliminary plans that includes sidewalks, but did not elaborate further. According to a release from MDOT, Picayune has been awarded $100,000 under the Safe Routes to School program to “build sidewalks along Sixth Avenue and stripe crosswalks in the school zone leading to Picayune’s Westside Elementary School.”