BY ALAN BURKE
---- — Starting next spring, pedestrian safety outside of St. Adelaide’s Church in West Peabody will be partly in the hands of the pedestrians themselves.
The City Council has approved spending $88,500 for a traffic light on Lowell Street in front of the church, a light to be activated by a push button. Public Safety Director Bob Langley said at Thursday’s meeting of the council’s finance subcommittee that given the details that must be attended to, he could promise only to have the light up and functioning by spring.
“Before Easter,” urged Ward Councilor Barry Sinewitz.
“We will try,” Langley said.
The urgency comes as a result of the death of Theodore Buttner, 87, in January. A Somerville resident, Buttner regularly attended St. Adelaide’s with his daughter, Peabody resident Patricia Caton, and her family. He was struck by a car while walking from the church to a parking lot directly across the street.
In the days since, parishioners and the church’s pastor, the Rev. David Lewis, have pointed to the danger created by drivers speeding down the roadway. Mayor Ted Bettencourt, who attends the church with his family, has worked along with Sinewitz and Langley and his team to make the crossing safer.
A survey by Design Consultants showed that 11,000 vehicles, traveling an average of 37 to 40 miles per hour, pass the church each day.
“We were all astounded by that figure,” said Caton, who has lobbied to make the street safer.
Langley described the proposed lights as facing in both directions off a single pole — with a small stand on the opposite side of the street to provide the second push button. Because concerns have been raised about the glare of the setting sun, he added that steps will be taken “to minimize that.” Meanwhile, the crosswalk will be widened from 8 to 10 feet.
Engineering for the light has already consumed roughly $16,000, said Langley, including the cost of the design consultant study. He acknowledged that sometimes too many traffic lights can become a problem, “but in this case we feel this is warranted.” His engineers worked closely with the pastor in deciding the best way to aid pedestrians.
The mayor attended Thursday’s subcommittee meeting to encourage the council to approve the light, which won the support of the full council later in the evening.
Getting pedestrians to push the button, however, will mean getting them to use the crosswalk — something that hasn’t always happened in the past. Lewis has pledged to discourage jaywalkers among his flock.
“I was so pleased,” said Caton, who watched the meeting on television. “This will make a difference, so another person doesn’t get injured or, worse, killed like my dad. ... I would never want another family to go through what we did.”
Langley said the project has to be put out to bid, and construction could be hampered by problems associated with the winter. “Unfortunately it will be dependent on weather,” he said.
Alan Burke can be reached at email@example.com.