Why a Hellish Elyria Swansea Intersection Deserves a Fast Fix

Oscar Gomez of Elyria Swansea crosses the train tracks at 47th and York with his daughter, who goes to Swansea Elementary nearby.
Oscar Gomez of Elyria Swansea crosses the train tracks at 47th and York with his daughter, who goes to Swansea Elementary nearby.

There is no excuse, in an economically booming city in an affluent country, for the intersection of 47th and York.

The intersection is not designed for people. A freight train runs through daily, but the sidewalks disappear the closer to the tracks you get — where sidewalks exist at all. The street design prioritizes cars, with no truly safe crossing for people walking or biking. (The 47th Avenue bike lane is interrupted at this intersection.)

This video makes a good case for why the Hancock administration should fast-track a pedestrian and bicycle bridge here [PDF]. Aside from the obvious safety hazard, this shoddy intersection often makes Swansea Elementary School students late, as the train stops for 15 or 20 minutes at a time, sometimes longer. Almost 40 percent of Swansea Elementary School students have to cross the tracks to get to school, said Principal Gilberto Muñoz.

“Attendance is a big issue for us in general, and the train definitely exacerbates that problem at least once a week,” Muñoz said. “Being late by an hour or more adds up, so it just seems an inequitable situation, and it certainly impacts their education here.”

Pedestrian bridges are usually pricey work-arounds to poor street design, a way to get people across without sacrificing car speeds. But the freight train tracks aren’t going anywhere, meaning a proposed ped-bike bridge with a price tag of $12 million is worth it.

As a matter of basic fairness, the project is even more important. According to Census estimates, about 27 percent of Elyria Swansea families live in poverty, about 91 percent of residents are people of color, and about 36 percent are under 18.

The bridge made the shortlist of projects to be funded by incoming bond money, but that’s no guarantee. This embarrassment of a crossing is a dangerous barrier for Swansea Elementary School students, their parents, and everyone else in the neighborhood who just want to walk or bike to their destination safely. The neighborhood(s) deserves this fix as soon as possible.

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