Opinion: You shall not pass! (the footbridge)

Framingham State University is an island surrounded by heavily trafficked roads. This poses a problem for students on foot who are hoping to get to the commuter parking lots, University Pizza, Mad Willies or anywhere else on the other side of Route 9.

Dean of Students Melinda Stoops reminded those of us traveling to and from campus that crossing Route 9 can be dangerous. In an email sent on September 4th, 2014, she wrote, “I strongly encourage you to cross at the designated pedestrian crossing, which is a footbridge. … This footbridge has lights and marked crosswalks.”

The email came nearly two years after FSU senior Colleen Kelly was struck and killed by a car while crossing Route 9.

Despite the concerns of the administration, the journey across the footbridge became dangerous following the historic snowstorm that hit New England last week, as well as the snow that fell Wednesday.

After navigating the slippery, snow-covered sidewalk of High Street, the next obstacle students encounter is the crosswalk. There are two buttons on either side of the sidewalk which light road signs to alert oncoming traffic of pedestrians crossing the road.

Although these buttons are potentially life-saving, no care was taken to keep them functioning. On the side of the road where the footbridge is located, snow has been plowed over the button, making it inaccessible to students who may be coming back to campus in the dark.

While the stairs to the bridge have been blocked for weeks due to crumbling steps, students are able to use the handicap ramp to get to the other side of Route 9. Once there, there is another crosswalk that leads them over a one-way on-ramp to the highway. Unfortunately, this crosswalk is currently of little service to students, because the other end is blocked by a snowbank that is several feet high. So, if they want to cross, they have to take their chances walking across an intersection, hoping drivers see them over the snowbanks.

Massachusetts is known for being prepared for snowstorms. It is shocking, then, that a bridge which is crucial for the transportation and safety of thousands of students would be allowed to fall into such disrepair. A student recently died crossing Route 9. Will it take another death before this issue is addressed? Functions of state and local governments are infamously uncoordinated and slow, but perhaps when it comes to a crossing that has claimed the life of a 21-year old girl, they could rise to the occasion and develop a sense of urgency.

 

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