Improving Pedestrian Safety; The Influence of Race and Culture on Public Infrastructure

Barnes, Aimee, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Smith, Brian, EN-Eng Sys and Environment, University of Virginia
Baritaud, Catherine, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

Physical infrastructure provides shelter, warmth, resources, and security to all individuals whether recognized or not, and without it we would be standing in the middle of fields and forests. By providing safety for pedestrians, the technical research project aims to improve pedestrian infrastructure along Jefferson Davis Highway, south of Richmond, VA, in Chesterfield County. An area of low economic income needs the help of engineers to thrive and foster a safe environment for men, women, children, and members of the community. The science, technology, and society (STS) topic uses Actor Network Theory as a framework for analyzing the effect of sidewalks and built infrastructure on a community. While focusing heavily on sidewalks, the work also aims to address the inconsistency in infrastructural zoning based on race, religion, and culture. This STS research aims to explore the reasoning behind the lack of public and pedestrian infrastructure in the area of Jefferson Davis Highway.
The technical report outlines the planning process for creating pedestrian infrastructure along a half mile stretch of Jefferson Davis Highway. To design and build sidewalks, or any kind of infrastructure, the team was first required to research and explore the surrounding neighborhoods, businesses, and traffic patterns of the area. The team used survey data as well as GIS from Chesterfield County to evaluate land values, crash data, land elevation, and utility work in the neighborhood. Large shoulders in the road could no longer suffice as sidewalks after two pedestrians were struck and killed within one year.
After collecting as much data as possible, the team began making geometric changes to the existing road. By adding in sidewalks, the team was forced to use land easements due to the invasion of local business owner’s property. A cost estimate was made to determine how much the obtainment of these easements would cost. Along with the built sidewalks themselves, signal warrants were explored, and it was determined where signals should be stationed. Due to time constraints as well as system constraints and lack of information, full plans were not created for this project.
The original focus of the STS research was to explore the effect of sidewalks on communities and neighborhoods. Actor Network Theory was used to explore the groups that sidewalks affect, problems they create, and ways for these said problems to be fixed. This led to investigation into why some public infrastructure is so well taken care of while in other areas it does not exist. However, as the effects of nonexistent sidewalks were explored, the research opened up to the effects of race, culture, and religion on zoning, and how that affects public infrastructure and fair housing. All of these topics ultimately drove the research into heavily focusing on the inequality of infrastructure based on race, religion, and culture.
The Civil Rights Act of 1968 included the Fair Housing Act, implemented by President Johnson. This act stated that potential property owners could not be discriminated against due to their personal beliefs, skin color, or religion, but unfortunately, this still happens today, over 50 years later. Taxpayers are paying for public infrastructure, and therefore it is the wealthy that are paid attention to first and foremost. This research aims to prove all of these cases to be true and argue for the equality of all people and subsequently all infrastructure. It takes one public official as an individual to make a change.
Built infrastructure is constantly changing whether it is breaking down due to weather, styles being changed due to trends, or entirely new land being adapted. It is up to engineers and individuals to adapt to this change as those things around them move. However, it is also up to those same engineers and public officials to make sure that as things are changing, projects and people are not being left behind.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
pedestrian, safety, infrastructure, Actor Network Theory, The Fair Housing Act

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering
Technical Advisor: Brian Smith
STS Advisor: Catherine Baritaud
Technical Team Members: Hanna Custard

All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
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