The Westfield City Council has once again delayed a vote on whether to install a signalized crosswalk or an underpass where the Monon Trail crosses 161st Street, prompting Mayor Andy Cook to seek more details for the latter.
Since February, the council has debated creating a pedestrian tunnel where the Monon Trail crosses 161st Street near U.S. 31, using preliminary infrastructure previously installed. City officials have ballparked the cost of finishing the tunnel at $5.25 million.
On Monday, after Westfield Public Works Director Jeremy Lollar told the council that he didn’t support installing a $122,719 signalized crosswalk as an alternative to the tunnel, Cook said the city would start the underpass design and bidding process beginning on Tuesday.
“I’m going to instruct Jeremy Lollar to go ahead and proceed with the design, the engineering, to produce bid documents. When that is complete, we’ll take it to the market and bring you bid results. You can vote yes or no at that time,” Cook said. “We’ve been asking for direction from this council for months. Every time it gets put off by wanting this and wanting that.”
Council President Joe Edwards, however, maintained that the council would make a decision at its next meeting, set for Dec. 28. Cook said he still planned to move forward with the design and bidding process, although it wouldn’t be complete by the end of the year.
Previously, Westfield City Engineer John Nail explained to the council that a signalized crosswalk would cause westbound traffic to back up past U.S. 31.
“Inevitably, someday, this tunnel has to be constructed,” Lollar said.
Council member Scott Frei floated the possibility of giving the signalized crosswalk—called a HAWK System—a trial run at that location.
He said that if it didn’t work, the city could continue with the tunnel. It then could recoup half of the crosswalk’s costs by moving it to one of the other four or five Monon Trail intersections that need special attention, he said.
Regardless of the next meeting’s vote, several council members expressed concerns about doing nothing.
“I feel like we keep kicking this can down the road,” councilor Scott Willis said. “Whether it’s a HAWK system or a tunnel, every day there’s not something there we run the risk of somebody getting killed.”