Homeland Security wants safety improvements made to Public Square following vehicular terror attacks

Posted at 6:00 AM, Aug 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-23 07:26:01-04

Cars have been used as weapons in terrorist attacks around the globe. People drive into crowds of innocent people looking to cause mass casualties.

The most recent was in Barcelona, where a man drove a van into a crowded tourist area, killing 13 and injuring 130 others.

Department of Homeland Security officials are now asking those in charge of Public Square to do more in preventing similar attacks there.

Since Public Square received a $50 million dollar facelift, there have been many high profile terror attacks, with vehicles acting as weapons.

“We don’t think designing something out of fear is a good idea, but we also think it’s important to be careful when you do design that kind of public space,” said Tony Coyne, Chairman of the Group Plan Commission.

The Commission oversaw Public Square’s major, 15-month renovation that concluded right before the RNC in 2016.

“Homeland Security weighed in and said they wanted to be careful about two lanes of traffic going through for buses, that there be a system in place to do what’s sort of a traffic calming measure so vehicles couldn’t go through at a high rate of speed,” said Coyne.

Since Public Square opened to bus traffic, the commission strategically placed 14 large planters around various entrances to the square. Additionally, traffic was reduced to one lane and to buses only.

But these fixes are only temporary. The Department of Homeland Security, after assessing recent vehicular terror attacks, has asked city officials to develop a more permanent solution to preventing cars or trucks from driving into crowds on the square.

The perimeter of Public Square is the most exposed, said Coyne.

“What we want to do is look to other design features that would be more attractive but also effective so that we compliment the space, yet preserve the safety of the space,” he said.

The Group Plan Commission says they’ll have a more permanent safety plan before the end of the year. Their biggest hurdle now though, is finding funding to make sure these safety improvements happen quickly.

News 5 asked city officials what plan they had to improve safety and answer DHS' questions and they declined to comment.