Mt. Vernon crosswalks, audio signals upgraded after college student speaks out

Better Call 4

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A Mount Vernon college student said it’s time to make streets in the Buckeye State safer for people with disabilities.

She called Better Call 4 this summer, and after her story aired, I heard from a member of Mount Vernon City Council, who tells me work is in fact underway to update the city’s infrastructure.

“When I saw the story, I was very concerned. I always say that I am all things Mount Vernon, and I take it really seriously.”

That response from Mount Vernon City Councilwoman, Amber Keener, after my conversation with Sadie McFarland aired this summer.

McFarland called Better Call 4, to call on the city, to install audio signals at all crosswalks. She’s been legally blind since birth, which makes it difficult for the college sophomore to find her way around Mount Vernon on her own.

“Navigating city streets is pretty challenging for a sighted pedestrian, let alone someone with a vision impairment,” said McFarland.

At the time, the Knox County Public Health Department told me that it was working to develop an Active Transportation Plan, to make walking safe for all ages and abilities.

Not long after, I got the call from Councilwoman Keener.

“I wanted to see what our city was doing to address this issue,” said Keener.

Keener said she spoke with several departments — the Board of Developmental Disabilities, the Safety Director and the City Engineer — and is now working to develop additional plans to improve and upgrade the city’s infrastructure, including many of its crosswalks.

“Each intersection, whether you install a new light fixture or those audible signals, or just upgrade what’s already there, it runs $6,500,” said Keener.

Keener also said discussions are underway to determine where that money will come from, and how it will be used.

“Best practice really seems to be to focus on where these individuals live that need these improvements, and to, you know, improve areas around them.”

Keener also said the city wants to meet with anyone who has an impairment or a disability, to find out what he or she needs. The city wants to hear from you directly in order to make effective changes.

Additionally, Keener tells me the city is looking at long-term changes to cut down on the high volume of traffic in downtown Mount Vernon, potentially re-routing major roadways.

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