Can Route 9 Be Made Safer at Railroad Crossing/Fire Station?
Framingham State Rep. Chris Walsh had a conversation with MassDOT Monday following the death of a Framingham State University senior Friday night. The students was struck by two vehicles as she tried to cross Route 9.
If you have ever driven Route 9, you've likely witnessed a pedestrian trying to dodge car and trucks to get to the other side.
It happens even more frequently at the intersection of Route 9 and Maynard Road where there are no guardrails and jersey barriers, as there is an opening for the railroad crossing and also an opening for the Framingham Fire Station.
Friday, Framingham State University senior Colleen Kelly, 21, was struck by not one but two vehicles trying to cross Route 9 after 10 p.m. She made it halfway across Route 9 when she was struck in the westbound lane, thrown into the eastbound lane, where she was hit again. Both Framingham drivers stopped. Framingham Police are investigating.
Repeatedly, throughout the semester, Framingham State University and its police department have issued alerts reminding students not to cross Route 9, especially at that railroad/fire station opening, but to use the foot bridge near campus, across from Mad Willie's. Just one of the warnings from the Framingham State University Police Department is posted with this report.
There is no crosswalk at the railroad/fire station opening on that section of Route 9. The Framingham Fire Department has the ability to activate a stop light red when it needs to leave the station to go on calls.
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As Route 9 is a state highway, MassDOT is "responsible for installing and maintaining approved pedestrian crossings across Route 9, such as the one at Temple St. and Prospect St. The closest pedestrian street level crossing to the area where the student was struck is several hundred feet east and is a footbridge over Route 9 from High Street to the Framingham Center area," wrote Framingham Police Lt. Steven Cronin in an email to several Framingham officials. "The area where the FSU student was struck is not and has never been to my knowledge has been an approved crossing and has had a reduced median for many years for the use by Fire Department, EMS access as well as the rail grade crossing immediately west of it."
"Friday was a tragic day," said Framingham Town Manager Bob Halpin, referring to the shootings in Connecticut and the fatal crash on Route 9. "We need to work with MassDOT, have a conversation with the, to make Route safer and eliminate the risk."
"It's a state highway, so the decision falls with MassDOT, but we can serve as a supportive role," said Halpin.
Monday, Framingham State Rep. Chris Walsh had a conversation with the legislative liaison for MassDOT.
"I inquired about ways to make that section of Route 9 safer," said walsh in a phone interview with Framingham Patch. "This is not the first conversation we have had with MassDOT about Route 9. We knew something bad could happen there and now something bad has happened."
Walsh said it is "unrealistic in the real world to expect college stuents to walk 300 yards away to use a foot bridge. ... We need to recognize that pedestrians - especially students from the University -- are going to cross there and make it safer."
"I don't know what the solution is," said Walsh, who added anytime he sees a pedestrian trying to cross Route 9 it scares him.Walsh said he sees it all along Route 9, not just at the location of the fatal crash.
In regards to the opening along Route 9 at the railroad crossing/fire station, Walsh said "it invites people to take stupid chances."
Walsh said MassDOT has procedures to follow before changes could happen. He said he was not sure how long it would take to make changes and what changes the state may be open to. He said hearings may need to be held before something could be done.
One option is possibly allowing students to use the existing stoplight for pedestrian crossing, adding a red-yellow light, said Walsh.
Another - albeit an expensive option - is to build another footbridge at that location, he added.
"Whatever is done won't be foolproof," said Walsh, who added that speeds along Route 9 are high and some drivers are distracted. (Editor's Note: Walsh was discussing in general terms- neither driver has been cited for any infractions in Friday's night's fatal crash.)
Walsh said perhaps a "red light ahead" sign could be placed after Temple Street, if the signal was made available to student use.
Ironically, MassDOT places a sign cautioning pedestrians not to cross the highway at the railroad crossing/fire station opening last month. The sign specifically, says "No pedestrian crossing. Use High St. crosswalk."
In the mean time, Framingham State University has again alerted students, who are taking finals this week, not to use that opening on Route 9 as a way to cross the state highway.
The Town of Framingham is also working with the University.
"I've reached out to Framingham State (University). We want to be a partner and supportive to them also," said Halpin. "We plan to work with them to do what we can to make it safer."