Project Could Cause Difficulties for Firefighters

By: Estephany Escobar Email
By: Estephany Escobar Email

HARRISONBURG -- A project aims to keep people safe as they cross a busy street. Harrisonburg's City Council approved the project last night.

The project is for the area on South Main Street right in front of the Forbes Center, James Madison University's performing arts center. It will begin during the summer.

There will be a median with a fence and on the other side of Main Street there will be another fence. The sidewalk right in front of the Anthony Seeger building will be rerouted.

The changes could make it difficult for fire trucks to get through and for the Harrisonburg Fire Department, every second counts.

When firefighters travel on South Main Street, Chief Larry Shifflett said it can be hectic.

"We would travel in the center lane or at times we would move over the southbound lane to get around to travel to get around whatever vehicles are not moving forward," said Chief Shifflett.

The project could make it even more difficult to get through.

“If the median is installed we would be locked in traffic not being able to turn around not being able to get off Main Street. We would just been sitting dead still until the lights change to let us through.”

The joint project between JMU and the city aims to stop pedestrians from darting across South Main Street.

“Does it help us move us in the direction of creating a safer environment not only for the pedestrians but for those driving the vehicles? I think it does," said JMU Spokesman Don Egle.

Egle said the university has increased efforts to fix the problem.

“We've seen improvements. I don't think it has solved everything.”

Shifflett said this may delay response time, but safety is always first.

“Eventually someone is gonna get hit at that location,” said Shifflett.

Firefighters would use a different route to get in and out of downtown on weekdays.

Funding for the project will also be used for sensors on traffic lights. City leaders don't know how much it will cost yet.

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