After 2 fatalities, Newport looks at crosswalk safety

Newport is a city with a lot of traffic and pedestrians.

Maneuvering safely through intersections like the one at Memorial Boulevard and Bellevue Avenue can be a challenge.

"In the 24 years that I've been back from Atlanta, there has been very little oversight of this intersection," said Joel Newman, a Newport resident.

A challenge that can turn deadly as the city learned last month.

Fifty-seven-year-old Robert Silvia was fatally hit Jan. 17 while crossing Memorial Boulevard in his wheelchair. The next week, 58-year-old Sharon Gerlach, a shop owner, was killed crossing Bellevue Avenue.

Both victims were in a crosswalk.

"You'd think that you're in a crosswalk you're doing the right thing to be safe," said Michelle Ache.

Newport Councilor-at-Large Naomi Neville said it's why she helped pass a resolution to look at all pedestrian safety laws in the city and the state of Rhode Island.

"We didn't just want to say, 'Oh, that's too bad,' and walk away. We really wanted to use that to focus on this issue," Neville said.

Neville said the city is also going to be looking at how it maintains current crosswalks, whether it's doing a good enough job marking the crosswalks and giving people enough time to cross safely, and finally, just making sure people are following the rules of the road.

The city has already held meetings with state officials and the public.

So far, Neville said they've discussed better lighting and striping the crosswalks at different times of year to prevent fading during the winter months.

The hope is a joint effort will lead to better law enforcement, crosswalk maintenance and public awareness.

"Safety is paramount. So, we'll do what we need to," Neville said.

Neville said the changes should not be expensive.