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Published: Monday, 1/19/2009

Traffic light not needed, officials say

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

January is hardly a popular time for children to walk to school, but when warmer weather returns, so too will after-school pedestrians return along McCord Road at and near McCord Junior High School in Sylvania.

That worries neighborhood mothers like Michelle Atkinson, who say the mix of jubilant children and afternoon traffic on McCord is just one false step away from tragedy.

It s been unresolved for years, Ms. Atkinson, a mother of two McCord students, said last week. They cross at poorly marked crosswalks and the traffic doesn t slow down.

But the solution Ms. Atkinson would like to see a traffic signal, either at one of the school s entrances or at one of several nearby side-street intersections is something city officials say just isn t justified by the numbers.

A Dec. 5 report from DGL Consulting Engineers LLC. of Maumee stated that neither the intersection of McCord with Gaines Mill Drive and Coppersmith Road north of the school nor the school entrances themselves meets state criteria, known as warrants, for a stoplight, based on traffic counts taken in mid-November.

Jeff Ballmer, the city service director, said similar traffic analysis was done four or five years ago, also at neighborhood parents request, with the same results.

There s just not enough traffic to warrant a signal at the intersection, Mr. Ballmer said, and not enough pedestrian traffic at the school to warrant a crossing signal.

The state criteria, he said, include peak-hour, four-hour, and eight-hour volumes, plus other factors like accident history, and none of the ones we tried were even close.

Not enough traffic or not, there needs to be a traffic light there so the kids can cross safely, responded Lisa Selmek, the Williamsburg Drive mother of an eighth-grader at McCord and a fifth-grader who will enroll there next year. It is a real hazard when the kids are trying to cross and vehicles are trying to turn at that intersection.

Katie Cappellini, a city council member who raised the issue with city officials on the parents behalf, conceded that part of the problem is the students behavior: They re junior-high kids, and they ve got iPods on or they re talking to each other and they re not paying attention.

But she said the issue nonetheless deserves further consideration, noting in particular that the traffic study counted only vehicles.

Maybe in the spring, we ll take a look at counting pedestrians. I don t think we re done looking at it yet, Mrs. Cappellini said.

Such a pedestrian count would be welcome news for Ms. Atkinson, who said she doesn t consider an automated car count adequate to assess the situation. She also expressed disappointment with school officials, saying that if the Sylvania district were more supportive of a traffic signal or other improvements, the city response might be faster and bigger.

McCord principal Jeff Robbins said he and other district officials have discussed a number of things with the city police and other city leaders, including repainting crosswalks near the school in brighter colors, adding signs, and stepped-up enforcement of the 20-mph school zone speed limit.

Drivers need to gear it down when passing the school, the principal said, adding that he trusts the traffic study and its conclusion that stoplights are unwarranted.

The school district, meanwhile, is doing what it can to encourage its students to be careful when walking along or crossing the street.

We also need the kids to behave more safely, to use the crosswalks, Mr. Robbins said. It s true kids will cross in the middle between streets, they ll cross diagonally.



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