Mayor Mike Cooper informed the Covington City Council at its meeting on Tuesday night that he has hired an engineering firm to address traffic concerns and pedestrian safety in the immediate area around St. Tammany Parish Hospital.
During his administrative comments and reports that traditionally cap each council meeting, Cooper said he planned to meet with company representatives on Wednesday to discuss criteria to be used in the study.
After the meeting, Cooper identified the firm as Digital Engineering, which has offices in Kenner and in Waveland, Miss.
“(Digital) employs a certified traffic planner, and we’re going to do a traffic study in the particular area of West 8th (Avenue,) South Harrison and South Van Buren (streets),” the mayor told the council. “(We’ll look at) that whole area and ask (Digital) to give us formal recommendations on what can be done to provide a safer intersection; safer means of moving traffic in and around this area.”
Though Cooper didn’t mention it specifically, the area he described to the council is where a St. Tammany Parish Hospital employee, who was on foot, was hit by another hospital employee leaving work in a low-speed accident earlier this month.
In that incident, an employee driving out of a parking lot on South Harrison Avenue had stopped at a stop sign at the intersection of South Harrison and W. 8th Avenue. When the driver turned, her truck struck a 52-year-old nurse who was in the crosswalk, just a couple of feet away.
Covington Police Chief Tim Lentz said at the time that the crosswalk is well-marked and well-lit, with flashing lights announcing the approach of the crosswalk in both directions.
The pedestrian later died from injuries sustained in the accident. The driver was estimated to be travelling 5 MPH.
Still, Cooper suggested to the council that devices in place may not be sufficient to handle traffic concerns in the area.
“We’re going to ask (engineers) to give us any and all recommendations, including and not limited to turn lanes, signalization, signage, crosswalks -- anything that can be done to improve the situation on city property there,” he said.
Cooper said he had met several times with hospital administrators and they pledged full support of the traffic safety study.
Last week, the hospital announced it had formed a task force to work with the city to “examine pedestrian and vehicular traffic on and near our campus,” the statement read. “Immediate actions included evaluation of existing plant and transport. Grounds crew members installed fresh batteries in pedestrian warning signs, repainted stop blocks, crosswalks and parking spaces. Next steps coordinated with city personnel will be determining appropriate ways to address traffic enforcement on adjacent streets.”
The statement also said that the hospital was launching a pedestrian safety campaign for employees.
In other action at Tuesday’s council meeting, members voted unanimously to pass an ordinance making it easier to combine smaller lots of property in the city into larger lots. They also rezoned a 1.926 acre parcel of land bounded by Collins Boulevard, West 32nd Avenue, North Florida Street and unconstructed West Morgan Street from CN Neighborhood Commercial and RM-1 Residential District to CR (Regional Commercial.)
The council also accepted District B Councilman Jerry Coner’s request to represent the city at the NAACP National Convention in San Antonio, Tex. in July.