Work underway to improve safety at Kenan Fountain intersection

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Kenan Fountain occupies the middle of the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Market Street in Wilmington. Port City Daily file photo.
Kenan Fountain occupies the middle of the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Market Street in Wilmington. Port City Daily file photo.

City of Wilmington construction crews continue work on a project to make safety and lighting improvements at the Fifth Avenue and Market Street intersection where the historic Kenan fountain is located. The full project is expected to be completed this fall.

Wilmington City Council approved a new lighting scheme last year for the fountain, citing the need for extra pedestrian safety at the intersections surrounding it, along with better lighting to prevent cars from crashing into or side-swiping it.

In a written statement released by city spokeswoman Malissa Talbert, the sidewalks at all four corners of the intersection will become handicapped accessible, along with installing underground wiring for planned signal and lighting improvements. Over the next several weeks crews will also install overhead lighting to better illuminate the intersection, as well as updated pedestrian signals.

Traffic and pedestrian signals at the intersection will be programmed to stay red during night hours until a vehicle arrives at the intersection or a pedestrian pushes the “walk” button. According to Talbert, the red light will cause cars to slow down when approaching the intersection and is expected to lower the probability that vehicles will hit the fountain.

Cracks, scrape marks and car-rendered scars are evidence of at least 20 impacts Kenan Fountain has sustained in the past five or six years alone. In the greater plaza around it, the city has documented at least 75 miscellaneous accidents in the same period. Most occurred around 2 a.m.

In 2013, the city settled with an insurance company for $50,000 for damages to the fountain after an impaired driver slammed into the fountain.