FOUNTAIN, COLORADO- People are running across several lanes of high speed traffic near Pikes Peak Community College and many fear if safety improvements aren’t made in the area it’s only going to be a matter of time before a pedestrian or driver is killed.
Student leadership, a county commissioner and law enforcement all fear the worst could happen. Students and people riding the bus in this area near Pikes Peak Community College are running across six lanes of traffic just to get to a nearby shopping center. What we uncovered helped get the ball rolling in the effort to make this area safer.
Pikes Peak Community College Student Government President Jennifer Sharp was one of several students who reached out to News 5 asking us to investigate the dangers going on just feet from the front of the Centennial Campus in the City of Fountain. In this area pedestrians are banned from crossing South Academy and there isn’t a clearly marked area to cross the street to the nearby shopping center where students eat and even work. The goal for the students, make this area safer for students and those who ride the bus.
“The students just really wanted it. It is something they had been talking about for a couple of years and we’ve been trying to get there,” said Sharp. “There’s so many people that are going so fast and it’s unsafe. It’s very unsafe and I do see people running across the street, sprinting across the street.”
Pikes Peak Community College Police Chief James Barrentine says he too recognizes the danger.
“It’s fast. A lot of people are trying to beat those red lights so when you are looking at 50-60 mph somebody in that intersection who doesn’t have the right away they are going to get hit and somebody is going to get killed on the intersection and that’s going to be very bad,” said Barrentine. “We need to get it improved before someone does get injured or killed.”
In the last six months, campus law enforcement reports 21 crashes in the area, 14 people were rushed to the hospital, some even needing to be air lifted. The campus police chief believes this our investigation is helping to inspire change after years of frustration.
“A lot of people are now more aware of what’s going on. We did try to have some conversations and get some input about what our concerns were and I don’t think it was heard at least not to the point it was taken care of to the point we needed it taken care of and now we’re trying to fix the problem,” said Barrentine.
Taking a look at the intersection, it was designed for a steady flow of traffic. Putting in a crosswalk here doesn’t appear to be an option. Instead there is a pedestrian path that goes under a nearby overpass. The problem is, most people don’t even know it is there because the path starts off in the opposite direction of the shopping center across South Academy.
“If you look down this way there’s a bridge just over to the west. The pedestrian pass is about 300 yards down. You go underneath that bridge and come up on the other side. We are increasing signage because it isn’t well marked a lot of people don’t know about it,” said Barrentine.
Since we launched this investigation, Pikes Peak Community College has posted a sign to guide pedestrians down the path and vows to add more, including signs for people who use the bus stop on campus. It’ll take you about 20 minutes to walk the underpass round trip from the campus to the shopping center. Students say the underpass alone isn’t the best solution because people are still crossing South Academy to save time.
“The underpass is a safe way to go, but it is usually time over safety. Especially, as a student,” said Sharp.
The Fountain Police Department and Colorado State Patrol are doing their best to patrol the area to improve traffic safety.
“I see a lot of Fort Carson traffic especially during the rush hours. Especially, the Academy traffic. There are a lot of speed issues and following too closely and those are the issues we are taking right now,” said Galen Steele of the Fountain Police Department.
This area can be dangerous for traffic officers too because of the heavy traffic and speeds. The officers on the street are also urging traffic engineers with the state and county to look for permanent solutions.
“We’re going to see more pedestrian incidents, especially with people darting out into traffic, especially when they are doing 50 MPH,” said Steele.
The conversation is inspiring new ideas. Students hope a pedestrian bridge would be considered, while other options include a bike share program, or golf cart shuttle to get people to and from the campus faster utilizing the underpass. As these conversations continue campus leaders are confident traffic experts with the state are now taking the dangers here seriously.
“Traffic engineers are definitely looking at what are the issues and how to we rectify it,” said Barrentine.
El Paso County Commissioner Loginos Gonazlez says public input in 2012-2013 helped to design the area, but new safety concerns have made the future of this corridor once again up for debate. School leaders will be joining with state and local traffic experts to discuss future changes to improve safety. A meeting is being planned for sometime in March. We will follow this up to let you know what happens next.