Norman PD to roll out Campus Corner Pedestrian Safety Plan

Kyle Phillips / The Transcript

OU students walk around Campus Sorner befroe the Sooners take on South Dakota, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019.

Campus Corner could see some roadway changes geared towards pedestrian safety if a proposed plan is implemented.

The Norman Police Department wants to implement a Campus Corner Pedestrian Safety plan that would temporarily close Asp Avenue in the evening, permanently convert White Street from two-way to one-way westbound, create a pick-up area for ride-share services in the municipal parking lot, and establish a passenger pick-up area on the north side of White Street.

Lt. Carl Pendleton presented the plan during Norman City Council's Special Session Tuesday night. He said the plan focuses primarily on the area by Duffy Street on the north, Boyd Street to the south, Asp Avenue to the east and University Boulevard to the west. Currently there are narrow streets with two-way traffic and on-street parking, and Pendleton said about 2,000 to 3,000 pedestrians occupy the area Thursday through Sunday.

Changing White Street from two-way traffic to a one-way, westbound flow would be seasonally implemented if approved by the council and adopted by the police department, Pendleton said. It would begin two weeks prior to the beginning of OU's fall semester from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Sunday, excluding summer months, Christmas Break and Spring Break.

Part of the reason for proposed changes is an increased number of "close calls," Pendleton said. Vehicles have almost hit pedestrians who cross mid-block, are intoxicated or walking between parked and moving vehicles, he said.

"There are challenges. When you're that close and everything is that tight and you have so many large vehicles, it is hard to see in that area," Pendleton said.

Another recurring problem in the area has been ride-share services such as Uber or Lyft blocking lanes while waiting for passengers, which they can do legally for three minutes. On some occasions, Pendleton said, police have seen other vehicles go around the stopped ride-share vehicles into the opposite lane of traffic.

Kyle Madden, president of the Campus Corner Association and general manager for Louie's Bar and Grill, said the close calls and ride-shares services stopping in the road have been occurring on Campus Corner for years.

Asp Avenue is where Norman PD has been having the most trouble, Pendleton said, and is why this street would temporarily close between the first private driveway south of White St. and Boyd St. There were concerns that people wouldn't be able to back to Asp, but through use of other streets he said there are lots of opportunities to get back there.

When the plan is deployed, Pendleton said, it will look very much like game day with the traffic control plan and devices, but it's also a very easy tear down in the case of an emergency where everyone needs to vacate the area. There are 13 signs involved, he said, and least one officer on either end of the blocked roads to make sure people can get out.

Kate Bierman, Ward 1 council member, said she likes this idea, comparing it to a similar plan she saw when she attended school in Washington D.C. She said Washington has an area similar to Campus Corner and, after four serious vehicle collisions, it was closed in this way. She thinks people will get use to the plan, but there will probably be some issues starting off.

"I think long-term this will be better and safer for residents, drivers and businesses in the area. I think this is really well done and I look forward to seeing it in action, and hopefully we can start keeping people safer," Bierman said.

Alison Petrone, Ward 3 council member, said parking meter mercy should be considered in case someone leaves their vehicle in a closed area. Pendleton said that can be considered outside of game days.

Stephen Tyler Holman, Ward 7 council member, said he agrees with most of the plan, specifically closing Asp Avenue, but he does have a concern with the one-way conversion on White Street because he said he believes the street being narrow and two-way causes people to drive slowly. He said from a safety standpoint it makes sense to go one-way westbound and he's not completely opposed to it. His concern, he said, is that people will drive faster and go the wrong way, because people drive the wrong way on Buchanan Street every night.

The plan is still in the works and there are some facets city staff has been requested to look into such as costs and project analysis. Once the plan is finalized, Norman PD will bring the plan back to council for their consideration of the conversion of White Street from two-way traffic to a one-way.

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