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City Backs Efforts for Pedestrian Safety Improvements at Washington Avenue Following Death

Officials in the city of Wheeling are working to bring safety improvements at the intersection of Washington and Valley View avenues, where two weeks ago a pedestrian was struck and killed by a vehicle. According to people in the neighborhood, old cross walk buttons at the site do not work.

WHEELING — Residents of the Pleasanton neighborhood of Wheeling are urging city leaders to take action to improve safety at the busy intersection of Washington and Valley View avenues, where a 90-year-old pedestrian was struck and killed by a vehicle two weeks ago when she was attempting to cross the street.

During Tuesday’s meeting of Wheeling City Council, Jeff Parsons encouraged city leaders to make every effort to improve safety at the intersection. Parsons submitted a petition with more than 200 signatures on it supporting the effort to bring improvements for pedestrian safety to the site. Parsons’ grandmother, Jean Och, was the pedestrian who on the afternoon of June 22 died from her injuries after she was struck by a motorist on Washington Avenue near the Valley View Avenue intersection. Known by many in the local community for her work in the visual arts — including the popular Nativity scene displayed during Christmas seasons at Oglebay — Och was trying to cross the street when she was hit by a vehicle traveling though the busy stretch of roadway that is dotted with a number of small local businesses.

“For those who knew Jean, she was probably the youngest 90 year old you’d ever meet,” Mayor Glenn Elliott said Tuesday. “It absolutely broke my heart to hear that news. The city staff is already working on making that intersection one with crosswalks at Washington Avenue and Valley View. That can happen immediately, and we’ll have to do some additional work to make those sidewalks ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) compliant.”

Ultimately, having a functioning push-button for crosswalk service is a long-term goal, city leaders said.

“It’s a matter of public safety,” Parsons said. “I was out in 90-degree heat trying to get signatures for this petition for four hours. It was an eye-opening experience. Every single person I met with took the time to tell me a personal, first-hand story of incidents that they’ve been involved in near-incidents, people that they know who have been in fender benders at that intersection or even struck, like my grandmother”

Parsons said the people in the neighborhood signed the petition in support of something they all agree is needed.

“We want to come together in an effort to prevent accidents such as the one that occurred two weeks ago, which resulted in an unfortunate tragedy,” Parsons said.

The petition stated that residents, business owners and concerned citizens of the greater Pleasanton area are petitioning city council to install crosswalks and all other safety measures at the intersection of Washington Avenue and Valley View Avenue.

“The area is not currently fit for safe walkability and has created an unsafe environment for our residents, customers, children, college students and all others who frequent the many business establishments situated thereon,” Parsons said, reading the language on the petition to which 206 people signed.

Lara Graves, Wheeling resident and co-owner of Avenue Eats, which is situated at the corner of the intersection in question, also addressed council members Tuesday about urgency of the issue.

“This actually is something that I brought to council approximately two years ago after something I experienced with my son, who is here today,” Graves said, noting that improvements at the site not only need to make it safer for pedestrians walking across the street, but also for people who need safe crossing areas properly accessible via wheelchairs. “Due to a lack of accessibility in that area, it’s creating dangers with crossing, walkability and safety of our community there. Since the tragic accident with Mrs. Och, who was a valuable member of our community, I made it my plight to bring this back in front of the council and the community, to re-address the urgency and necessity of the crosswalks and push-button signals, as well as the curb cuts for accessibility.

“I’d like to respectfully encourage expediting the signals and curb cuts as efficiently as painting of the crosswalks.”

Her neighbors and employees have all discussed the needs for improvements at the intersection, Graves said, adding that existing “push to cross” buttons at the intersection do not function.

She added that just recently, boys riding bicycles in the area try to cross the street and end up playing “Frogger” with cars driving through the intersection.

“The city operations department has ordered crosswalk markings for the intersection of Valley View and Washington Avenue,” City Manger Robert Herron said. “Those are the large, white bars that will be installed to designate a crosswalk at that intersection. We also talked this morning about the progress or the ability to make ADA improvements at that intersection and then hopefully plan toward crosswalk signalization at that intersection as well. So that project is beginning, and the first step will be the crosswalks, which hopefully will come in here within the next week or so. As soon as they are in, the operations department will install them.”

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