WESTFIELD (WISH) — The start of a high-intensity activated crosswalk system on part of the Monon Trail in Westfield has been postponed.
Rain blocked Wednesday’s installation of the HAWK system on the Monon at 161st Street.
The delay came as more people learned of controversial remarks from one Westfield City Council member about pedestrians and bike riders who have been hit by vehicles.
The Monon Trial at 161st Street was set to have the new crosswalk system start Wednesday. Preparations have been made to put a tunnel in the area, but the City Council would have to sign off on a tunnel project.
Troy Patton, a Westfield councilor, said during this week’s finance committee meeting, “I like the trails. I think they’re nice,” but added it’s too expensive to build an underground pedestrian and bicyclist tunnel at 161st Street.
Signs for motorists at the trail crossing say “cross traffic” on 161st Street does not stop, and Patton said bicyclists ignore the stop sign at the trial. He also called on police to man the trail and to write tickets to walkers, runners and bicyclists who don’t obey the law.
The Republican said, “For God’s sake’s, get somebody out there and start stopping people and make them stop.
“I can’t help stupid. If you’re going to run out in front of a car, natural selection says that maybe you ought to be done.”
Westfield resident Matt Deck told News 8, “Both myself and a majority of our neighbors feel that long-term the tunnel is the best solution. But if this HAWK system can increase the safety of our residents and visitors to the city in the meantime, then we’re all for it.”
Deck said about Patton’s remarks, “I just don’t feel these are comments that should be made by a public official in a public setting.” “I don’t feel that he was serious with that remark. But, I would like him to apologize to the community again for even asserting such a tragic event as he did. I believe that counselor wants the best for the citizens of Westfield.”
Another Westfield resident, Jason Leighty, watched video of the finance committee meeting. He said, “There’s a lot of factors at play here. So, I don’t take his words at face value. It just sounds frustrating to me. It’s a frustration that is being expressed. It’s a systematic problem.”
Westfield administrators say the safest choice would be to completely separate street and trail traffic by putting the trail under the road. Plans call for a grade separation at the crossing, but the timetable for that is unclear.
Leighty said, “Really, the true solution that everyone can agree to is to separate. One path goes over; one path goes under.”
News 8 reached out to Patton for comment, but he’d not responded by Wednesday afternoon.