Crosswalk controversy debated at board meeting

Published 8:30 am Wednesday, August 23, 2023

The initiated construction of a proposed crosswalk at South Lamar and Buchanan has stirred significant debate in the community after City Engineer Reanna Mayoral admitted to moving forward with the project without official Board of Aldermen approval.

Residents expressed their concerns at an Oxford Board of Aldermen meeting on Aug. 15.

“I want to acknowledge that we proceeded with design and construction without bringing this for presentation to the board and I acknowledge that was my error. I apologize again for moving forward without giving y’all the opportunity to discuss this as is appropriate and customary for these projects,” said Mayoral.

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The initiated work has already seen the removal of a portion of asphalt. “Should the board choose not to move forward with this, that can be replaced,” Mayoral said.

Michael and Susan Reed of Oxford attended the meeting to express their concerns. Reed argued that the proposed changes would hinder drivers’ views and ability to turn left out of Buchanan. He also questioned the feasibility of placing a pedestrian refuge in the middle of South Lamar, a busy thoroughfare.

Dr. Ernest Williams expressed his disagreement with the elaborate crosswalk plans, claiming he had spoken to several residents who were uninformed about the project and wanted a simple painted crosswalk instead. He went on to say he believed that the city was being “haphazard” in the development of the crosswalk and was not following any guidelines.

All of the people I spoke with didn’t want anything elaborate like this. They just wanted the city to paint a crosswalk and be done with it,” Williams said.

Mayoral confirmed that the city had taken national engineering safety guidelines into account in planning the crosswalk, emphasizing that the refuge in the middle of the road would be the safest option considering the width of South Lamar.

Williams criticized pedestrian refuges, suggesting they cause individuals to stop being alert. “They just walk into these places as if they don’t have to watch traffic,” he said. He added that living in the immediate area requires a strategy for dealing with traffic, and that the crosswalk would disrupt this strategy by causing cars to “slow down.”

Reed voiced his concerns about the refuge. “You want to put me and my grandchildren in the middle of South Lamar when drivers aren’t paying attention?” he said. “It’s just crazy.”

Despite Mayoral’s clarifications, Williams continued to object. “This is government at its best and its worst,” he said. “It is digging deep into guidelines, parameters and ‘what if’ scenarios that just don’t happen. How many 88 year olds do you normally see trying to cross South Lamar? When I’m 88, you won’t see me crossing South Lamar. If I can’t make the cross in one fell swoop, I don’t need to be out there, and I have sense enough to know that.”

In light of the ongoing controversy and the fact that the asphalt has already been removed, the Oxford Board of Aldermen scheduled a public meeting for Aug. 21 at city hall. That meeting’s highlights will be published on the Eagle’s website.