State responsible for improving area where disabled pedestrian killed

Nicole June Reporting

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – In the wake of the death of Ellen Hapiuk Wednesday, July 19 on Providence Blvd., members of the community have expressed concerns about the area’s sidewalks and crosswalks.

Hapiuk was traveling in her wheelchair when she was hit by a 2003 Nissan Maxima. Police are still investigating the incident.

As the city of Clarksville continues to grow at an ever-increasing rate, the New Providence area is just one of many affected by higher volumes of traffic and subsequent crashes and fatalities.

Some have called for the addition of sidewalks and crosswalks to make the roadways safer for pedestrians, particularly those with disabilities.

In 2006, a consent decree was passed to ensure the city’s roadways meet the requirements laid out by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under this decree, the city must appropriate funds each year in order to improve existing sidewalks. The decree does not cover the addition of new sidewalks, crosswalks, or overpasses.

Mayor Kim McMillan said the city has set aside about $3.5 million in the fiscal year 2014 budget in order to maintain this compliance, and has worked with the state to maintain responsibility. She said the majority of the improvements involve the installation of ramps.

The city’s current sidewalk ordinance requires new developments to be equipped with sidewalks, but existing areas under city jurisdiction are not covered by the ordinance.

Providence Blvd. (41-A North) is a state road, and McMillan said any and all right-of-way improvements or additions must be made by the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT). She said any changes to Providence Blvd., where Hapiuk was killed, cannot be completed by the city.

“It breaks my heart to think about it, but I don’t know the circumstances surrounding it,” she said of Hapiuk’s death. “My understanding is she was just in the middle of the road, I don’t know why she was there.”

Deana Lambert, spokeswoman for Region 3 of TDOT, said the state currently has a Road Safety Audit Review project being designed SR12 (Providence Blvd) that includes the intersection of SR12 (Providence Blvd) and Peachers Mills Rd.

TDOT will improve several intersections along Providence Blvd. and Ft. Campbell Blvd. from north of Beech St. to SR 374. Pedestrian signals, crosswalks and curb ramps at five existing signalized intersections will be installed. TDOT will also be creating a “Pedestrian Zone” by erecting bright florescent yellow-green pedestrian warning signs spaced approximately .25 miles apart for the entire project length, according to Lambert.

She said TDOT plans to award the project to a contractor later this year or early next year, with work set to begin by early spring of 2014.