GHSU worker hit crossing street

A man was hit by a truck Thursday while crossing Laney-Walker Boulevard, which is surrounded by the Medical College of Georgia Hospital campus.

A Medical College of Georgia Hospital employee was hit by a pickup Thursday morning in a section of Laney-Walker Boulevard that Georgia Health Sciences University would like to close.

The accident prompted GHSU President Ricardo Azziz to renew his call to make his campus safer by closing off that section to through traffic.

Jimmy Flournoy, 51, an environmental health services technician, was hit at 6:30 a.m. in a crosswalk behind the university's library.

He was listed in fair condition at MCG, said Azziz, who visited Flournoy in the Emergency Department. Flournoy was conscious and talking, he said. Flournoy was wearing a neck brace and was strapped to a backboard, and Azziz said he did not want to speculate on the extent of his injuries.

"I'm hoping he will recover and recover fully," Azziz said.

Flournoy was hit by a Dodge Ram pickup driven by William McIntyre, of Kings Gate Drive, said Richmond County sheriff's Maj. Richard Weaver.

McIntyre will be charged with failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, Weaver said.

In December, Azziz asked the Augusta Commission to close that area of Laney-Walker between 15th Street and R.A. Dent Boulevard to most vehicle traffic to create a pedestrian mall that would unify the campus, improve safety and honor the road's namesakes, Lucy Craft Laney and the Rev. C.T. Walker.

The request prompted a backlash from some people in the surrounding community who see it as an inconvenience and an affront to the historic nature of the road, which served as a main artery to the black business district.

Azziz said talks and studies are still under way.

"We're continuing to dialogue with the community and with the city," he said. "We're waiting for the city to have public hearings regarding this. And we're waiting for the city to have final engineering data so that we can make plans for alternative routing, if you would."

City Traffic Engineer Steve Cassell said he would like to have a comprehensive study completed by early May. It would look at the traffic going through the area and where it is headed and determine the impact on major intersections if the area were closed.

The number of people hit by vehicles overall in Augusta seems to be fairly consistent from year to year. Data on the city's Web site, which runs from 1998 to 2005, showed that 816 people were hit during that period, with 33 deaths, an average of 102 pedestrians and 4.125 deaths per year, according to an analysis by The Augusta Chronicle .

It is not the first time an MCG staffer or student has been hit in the area by a vehicle. In 2008, a graduate student was killed while crossing 15th Street at its intersection with Laney-Walker.

Azziz said the school fears that will only increase after the new building for the College of Dental Medicine opens later this year across Laney-Walker from its current building, at which time classes will be held in both buildings.

"We're going to have 600 students walking back and forth across Laney-Walker," he said. "The mathematics tell us, the chances tell us that the number of accidents is going to increase exponentially."

The university is trying to work with others on a potential compromise, he said.

"We want to reach a solution that everybody feels comfortable with," the president said. "But at the end of the day, it is my responsibility as president of this university to ensure the safety of my community."

Staff Writer Bianca Cain contributed to this article.