AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Police Department says 22 pedestrians have been hit and killed on Austin roads this year. In an effort to improve pedestrian safety and reduce deaths along Interstate 35, the Texas Department of Transportation is urging everyone to “Be Safe, Be Seen” while walking.
Six construction projects are underway along I-35 and a seventh project set to begin at Rundberg Lane and US 290 are shifting the landscape for folks on foot. TxDOT’s “Be Safe, Be Seen” campaign pushes street savvy tactics. Chief Brian Manley says it’s a good start.
“What we can not do is stand by and not do the initiatives like we are doing today,” says Manley.
Reflective bags with safety tips and reminders went out to students at Webb Middle School, who must cross the St John’s bridge on I-35 to reach their classroom. TxDOT spokesperson Diann Hodges explains that they are taking steps to make sure everyone is safe.
“St John’s is part of our rebuild project,” says Hodges. “Anything we can do to give them more visibility when they’re walking to and from school is a step that we need to take.”
Many of the construction projects call for bridges to be torn down and rebuilt, displacing members of the homeless community. TxDOT contractors will be handing out the “Be Safe Be Seen” reflective bags with a resource card provided by House the Homeless that contain information on the services available to them.
“Some information inside that gives them tips and some helpful information on where to find resources, if they’re looking for housing, if they’re looking for jobs,” explains Hodges.
Information cards that label work zones along I-35 and safe places to cross the interstate are also included in the bag. They’ll be distributed to the homeless during monthly bridge cleanups and before projects break ground.
“The solutions will be difficult, there are conversations that take place regularly not only with city staff but with TxDOT and state officials. What we can’t do though is do nothing while we wait for structural improvements,” says Chief Manley. “So the most vulnerable in our community are more visible to the motorists. It is a step toward safety. ”
On average, 28 people are killed in auto-pedestrian crashes in Austin each year, and one out of every five pedestrian fatalities occurs along I-35. Aside from the inestimable value of loss of life, incidents involving pedestrian fatalities amount to an estimated $6.5 million annually in user delay and emergency services.
The “Be Safe Be Seen” pedestrian safety initiative will also be working with the local business community to share safety and safe-crossing information with their patrons.