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July 29, 2014

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Speed limit to be lowered on MLK Blvd. after pedestrian deaths

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Conor Shine

Las Vegas City Councilman Ricki Barlow stands with neighborhood residents at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Balzar Avenue on Monday, Nov. 1, where he announced that the city plans to reduce the speed limit and install two new crosswalk signals along Martin Luther King Boulevard to improve pedestrian safety.

Las Vegas plans to lower the speed limit and install two new flashing crosswalk signals along Martin Luther King Boulevard in an attempt to improve safety in an area where two pedestrians have been killed in recent months.

Surrounded by neighborhood residents and family members of the victims, councilman Ricki Barlow announced Monday that the city intends to lower the speed limit along Martin Luther King Boulevard between Carey Avenue and Alta Drive from 45 mph to 35 mph.

Two new push button-activated crosswalk signals with flashing yellow lights also will be installed along Martin Luther King Boulevard at Balzar Avenue and Bartlett Avenue, two intersections where pedestrians have been killed after being struck by vehicles that failed to yield as the pedestrians crossed the street.

Juge Brooks, 60, was killed around 7 p.m. Nov. 1 while crossing Martin Luther King Boulevard at Bartlett Avenue. Elizabeth Maze, 78, was killed around 4 p.m. Sept. 19 while crossing at Balzar Avenue in her motorized wheelchair. Both were in marked crosswalks when they were struck.

Standing at the intersection of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Balzar Avenue, Barlow said Monday that the recent rash of collisions between vehicles and pedestrians prompted him to ask the city’s public works department for a traffic study and suggestions to improve safety.

“Too many individuals have been killed within a 30- to 60-day timespan within Las Vegas and Clark County,” Barlow said. “We must do something as a community to stop that. I don’t want to see another pedestrian killed unnecessarily, specifically when they’re doing everything right inside of the crosswalks.”

The Las Vegas City Council will vote on the lower speed limit at their Wednesday meeting. If approved, signs with the lower speed limit could be posted starting that same day, Barlow said.

The new signs and crosswalk signals, which will be installed next spring, will cost the city between $100,000 and $200,000, he said.

The speed limit along much of Martin Luther King Boulevard has been 45 mph for many years. Renovations in 2010 widened the road to six lanes while also adding sidewalks that led to an uptick in pedestrian activity.

City Public Works Director Jorge Cervantes said the 45 mph speed limit was based on federal guidelines that considered traffic flow, number of accidents, number of intersections and other factors. A new set of federal guidelines support lowering the speed limit along the road, Cervantes said, in part because of high pedestrian traffic and the unique environment that surrounds the roadway.

A school, community center and senior living apartments are all located on the west side of Martin Luther King Boulevard, and residential neighborhoods are located on the other, leading to a high number of children and seniors utilizing the crosswalks, Barlow said.

Safely crossing the wide street with cars traveling at full speed is a challenge, exemplified by several people who attempted to dart across during breaks in traffic even as Barlow spoke about the need for improved crosswalks.

“I implore everyone to take the time to watch for pedestrians while driving to keep our neighbors and residents safe,” Barlow said.

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