Cross at the Corners–midblock crossing ends

Effective immediately, all library staff will use the crosswalks at the corners 10th and Washburn Avenue and 11th and Washburn. This follows the city’s removal of the mid-block ramps located near the 1020 parking lot.

CEO Gina Millsap communicated with Terry Coder, the City Traffic Engineer, City Of Topeka Engineering Division, about retaining the 1020 crossing, but was not successful in negotiating this request. The following is Mr. Coder’s study:

file:///Users/dfriend/Documents/SW%2011th%20&%20Washburn%20Ped%20Study%20Final%20Report.html

Here are links to Rob and a copy Gina’s communication with Mr. Coder:

file:///Users/dfriend/Documents/Email%20from%20Library%20-%20Mid%20Block%20Ramps.html

From: Terry Coder <tcoder@topeka.org>
Date: Thursday, September 28, 2017 at 9:43 AM
To: Gina Millsap <GMillsap@tscpl.org>
Cc: Brian Faust <bfaust@topeka.org>, Jason Peek <jpeek@topeka.org>, Ed Schraeder <eschraeder@Topeka.org>
Subject: RE: Midblock ramps in the 1000 block of SW Washburn

Ms. Millsap;

I received your email regarding the removal of the sidewalk ramps in the 1000 block of SW Washburn Avenue.   I am including Public Works Director Jason Peek and City Engineer Brian Faust in this correspondence so they are aware of your concerns.  I am also providing background information so they are more familiar with the site conditions.

In the area of the 1000 block of SW Washburn there are mid-block sidewalk ramps on SW Washburn Avenue leading across the street.  These ramps are approximately 220 feet south of the crosswalk at the signalized intersection of SW 10th & Washburn and approximately 260 feet north of the crosswalk at SW 11th & Washburn.   There are no crosswalk pavement markings and no Pedestrian Crossing signs associated with these ramps.  The existing school sign near the ramps provides advance warning of the 20 mph school speed zone and is not associated with the ramps.  Current city policy is that mid-block crossings or marked crosswalks across arterial or minor arterial roadways are discouraged when they are within 1320 feet (1/4 mile) of a traffic signal.   Other industry guides (AASHTO) suggests that mid-block crossings may be desirable at a location greater than 660 feet from a traffic signal.

In the fall of 2016 the city received a letter from Topeka-Shawnee County Public Library COO Robert Banks requesting improvements to the crosswalk at SW 11th and Washburn.  We also received an email from Councilmember Hiller requesting a study of the same crosswalk.  Based on this study, the crosswalk at SW 11th and Washburn was modified to include new pavement markings, signing, and a pedestrian actuated rapid flashing yellow beacon to supplement the School Crossing sign at the crosswalk.  This work was completed in August of 2017.  A copy of the traffic engineering study recommending the improvements is attached.

As you mentioned in your email, library COO Rob Banks previously agreed to the removal of the mid-block ramps and removal of the ramps started during the week of 9/18/17.  The work was temporarily suspended as the library has now asked that the ramps not be removed.

While removal of the mid-block ramps does create a slight increase in travel time between buildings, the removal of these ramps is in the best interest of safety for both pedestrian and vehicular traffic.  There is always a balance between safety and mobility but the proximity of the crosswalks at 10th and 11th, limits the inconvenience and helps ensure safer passage for all.

We appreciate you contacting the city and expressing your concerns about the removal and the possible impacts to both library staff and those that utilize the library.  While we understand your concerns, we feel strongly that utilizing the marked crosswalks at SW 10th and SW 11th will reduce the likelihood of vehicular/pedestrian conflicts and is in the best interest of those that use this area.   At this time, we are proceeding with the removal of the mid-block ramps.

Terry L. Coder, PE, City Traffic Engineer, City of Topeka Engineering Division
620 SE Madison, Topeka, KS | 785-368-3842

—–Original Message—–
From: Gina Millsap [mailto:GMillsap@tscpl.org] Sent: Thursday, September 21, 2017 7:26 PM
To: Terry Coder
Subject: Midblock ramps in the 1000 block of SW Washburn

Dear Mr. Coder,

We haven’t met, so let me introduce myself.   I’m Gina Millsap the CEO of the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library.

I know that our COO Rob Banks signed off on the removal of the midblock ramps in the 1000 block of SW Washburn in April, so I understand your response to community services Thad Hartman when he called you this morning.

I’m writing you to ask if there is any possibility of reconsideration or if there are other options that would allow us to continue allowing library staff to cross midblock.

I know there are rules and codes that must be followed and I respect your authority and responsibility to make these determinations.

So, I’m throwing myself on your mercy.

Here’s the situation I find myself in.  We’ve done some calculations and found that library staff use that crossing 100+ times daily to transport books and equipment and to retrieve books for library patrons. Part of our collection is housed in the building located at 1020 Washburn and our bookmobile staff are officed in that building.

Re-routing staff to the corner will affect productivity, timely retrieval of materials and the ability of staff to work safely.  Transporting heavy carts and tubs of books over a longer distance raises concerns about more opportunities for repetitive motion and other types of injuries.

This will not just affect library staff.  It also affects hundreds of people in the neighborhood, including our customers, school children from Lowman Hill Elementary and Stormont Vail Health employees, and neighborhood residents many of whom will continue to take the most direct route from the library to the east side of the street. I’m concerned about their safety.

I confess that I’m not looking forward to telling staff that they may no longer use the mid-block route to “1020,” which is what we call the library building across the street.

I realize this is not your problem, but as an experienced planner I know you’re aware of how people react when they are asked to change long-established habits. In this case, that mid-block crossing has been used for decades. It is a natural pathway for many people.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  Again, I know that we agreed to this and I’m sure my request at this point is disconcerting and frustrating.

However, if there is any way that we could continue to use the mid-block crossing from your perspective, I’d be very grateful to hear it.

Warm regards, Gina

Gina J. Millsap, Chief Executive Officer

7 thoughts on “Cross at the Corners–midblock crossing ends

  1. Michelle Stottlemire on said:

    Thanks for fighting the good fight, Gina! Just to clarify – the natural extension of the situation would be to discourage mid-block crossings by employees ANYWHERE around the library, not only to the 1020 building, right? Staff often cross mid-block from the northeast staff lot to the main lot (not including where curb cuts are provided), and staff were frequently crossing mid-block when they were parking at the Marian Clinic lot. I assume this type of activity is also discouraged.

    • Gina Millsap on said:

      Michelle, I had a discussion with HR director Jesse Maddox about this. Here’s our thinking on this issue. When employees are at work or “on the clock,” we can mandate that we all take certain actions. When they are not, we can certainly encourage employees to be safe, and avoid behaviors like jaywalking, but we don’t control their behavior or decisions. In some of the instances you’re describing, employees crossing from the parking lots are technically not yet “at work” or they are clocked out. Re. the Marion Clinic, we’re not yet sure what the final decision will be by the City of Topeka. Once the lot is resurfaced and we have completed all the required structural improvements, we’ll know what the requirements for crossing are. Thanks for asking for clarification on this.

  2. Kimberly Sain on said:

    We’ll be outside in inclement weather longer / standing at the crosswalk to wait for the light to change coming and going. So, it seems reasonable to have easy access to a couple of umbrellas that are permanently stored near our service areas or “anchor” points and a convenient place to hang jackets and coats in winter. Maybe a reusable tote bag to transport stuff in if it’s raining. Thanks–Kim

    • Gina Millsap on said:

      I encourage staff members who cross the street to work with their managers on making umbrellas available and addressing the issue of coats, etc. I understand that youth services has had umbrellas for some time. I am happy to provide funding to make that happen. Thanks for this suggestion, Kim.

  3. Natalie Moreland on said:

    On my first trip to annex this morning, I completely forgot to use the crosswalk. I think a reminder sign on the door leading out by the Lingo room would be helpful. Thanks!

  4. Gina Millsap on said:

    Forgetting when we’ve just changed the rules is completely understandable. I suspect others may do that, but it won’t take long to develop this new habit.

    To be on the safe side and to ensure that new employees know, I’ll ask our communications and marketing staff to post a sign there. Thanks for sharing what was an honest mistake, Natalie.