One Providence Pointe resident wants to mobilize neighbors to help persuade state transportation officials to make Lancaster Highway safer for Ballantyne Elementary School families.“We’d love to walk to school, but even at 45 mph, it’s still too fast,” said Jason Gavin. “Everyone’s still flying. We need a crosswalk or something.”Since the school was built six years ago, many parents have complained about the safety threat Lancaster Highway poses, said Ballantyne Elementary Principal Sharon Muzurek.The road, next to the school, was until recently regulated at 55 mph. It still does not have a crosswalk or caution lights for residents of Providence Pointe, which is across Lancaster Highway not far from the school.“It’s way too dangerous to cross that road,” said Amanda Desrochers, who has a son in kindergarten at the school and is president of the Providence Pointe homeowners association. “Of course, it’s going to take more than just one person making phone calls. I think it just needs to come in mass numbers, and that’s what will help us.”The development of a luxury apartment complex across from the school and next to Providence Pointe could raise more concerns. Residents say they fear the proposed apartments would add traffic and hazards.The 16.2-acre site was rezoned in 2012 to allow as many as 248 multifamily units, city records state. Providence Pointe resident Abby Nelson, who has a daughter in fourth grade, said neighbors are eager for the option of walking to school with their children. She said that three buses currently pick up kids from the neighborhood.“Our kids can’t walk to school,” Nelson said. “We try to walk them to school occasionally, but it’s impossible because of the traffic and the speed and the fact that there’s no crosswalk or sidewalks all the way down.”Residents have made a number of suggestions to state transportation officials, including requests for a crosswalk, traffic light and sidewalks. They’ve also asked that the speed limit be reduced to 35 mph or less, said residents.Sean Epperson, division traffic engineer with the N.C. Department of Transportation, said that according to state and city policy, it would be inappropriate to treat the area as a school zone because the main school entrance is not off Lancaster Highway. To get to the school, parents turn off Lancaster Highway onto Clems Branch Drive, then onto Scholastic Drive. Epperson said the school does have school-zone signs and markings along Lancaster Highway.When the road was 55 mph, transportation officials added a 45 mph school speed zone to be enforced during school hours, said Epperson. But then officials decided 45 mph was the right speed for the entire stretch.Since the school speed zone and normal speed limit were the same, transportation staff removed the 45 mph school speed signs, said Epperson.Epperson said he recently received a request to install a crosswalk and pedestrian-crossing signs on Lancaster Highway but had not received information on where residents would like the crossing.Epperson said the intersection of Lancaster Highway and Clems Branch Drive would not be appropriate because there is not a sidewalk on both sides of the road. He said state transportation staff do not install or maintain sidewalks, and he is not aware of any city project to install sidewalks there.Epperson said that even with sidewalks, transportation staff “would be very hesitant” to install a non-signalized crossing on Lancaster Highway because of the volume and speed of traffic.“Even with appropriate pavement markings and signs, this would not be a safe movement for pedestrians to make,” he said.Gavin said he’s frustrated the state department so rigidly follows a set criteria for reducing the speed limit and adding other safety measures, but he remains hopeful that if more people write to the state DOT, the staff ultimately will expedite a road-safety-improvement project outside the school.“I’m going to continue emailing and requesting a crosswalk across from Ballantyne Elementary,” he said. “It would help if more people know it’s a problem so that they can help raise more awareness and get this done a little bit quicker.”
Tuesday, May. 13, 2014
Parents: Busy road not safe for students
Residents can contact Sean Epperson, division traffic engineer with N.C. Department of Transportation, at 704-983-4400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arriero: 704-358-5945; Twitter: @earriero
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