Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Parents, School, Police Call Crossing Unsafe; DOT Won't Slow Traffic for Middle-Schoolers

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Parents, School, Police Call Crossing Unsafe; DOT Won't Slow Traffic for Middle-Schoolers

Article excerpt

Byline: Kristina Koehler, Shorelines correspondent

Parent Tom Marini has pursued a goal for months, to no avail. He's talked with police officers, parents, school administrators and the state Department of Transportation. The issue is a blinking yellow light.

The light blinks twice a day to indicate a school zone at 18th Avenue North and Third Street in front of Fletcher Middle School in Jacksonville Beach. The light blinks to warn drivers that elementary children are crossing Third Street, walking to and from San Pablo Elementary, which is also on 18th. Fewer than five elementary school children cross regularly. The speed limit is 15 mph when the light blinks.

The light does not blink when 20 or so students cross to and from Fletcher Middle School each day shortly after the elementary students. Marini and other concerned people don't understand why.

"Aren't the blinking yellow lights to warn drivers that children are getting out of school?" he asked. "Why not have them blinking any time children are crossing the street?"

Marini took action after he witnessed a car wreck while waiting to walk his daughters home one afternoon. One vehicle stopped short, two behind it were traveling too fast to stop, and it became a three-vehicle accident.

About 12 children, including Marini's two daughters, were waiting with the crossing guards across the street from Marini. No children were hurt, but some were hit by debris from the wreck. That's too close for Marini.

"It's just so clear how dangerous their walk across that road can be; why not make it as safe as possible? It makes no sense," he said.

Marini began making phone calls the next day.

"Look how fast people are flying through here," Marini said as he watched traffic stream by on Third Street about 4:15 one recent afternoon. It is a 35-mph zone, but Marini and the police officers estimate many vehicles travel closer to 45 mph.

As Marini called around trying to find the right person to turn on the blinking light, he found a great deal of support, from police officers, the crossing guards and the administration of Fletcher Middle. They all want the light to blink too, but the decision belongs solely to the Department of Transportation in Jacksonville.

Officer Shannon Harm of the Jacksonville Beach Police Department also witnessed the accident and submitted a formal request to the DOT. She asked for a re-evaluation of the intersection so the yellow lights would blink an additional 20 minutes in the morning and afternoon for the middle-school students.

This is a request that has been made more than once over the last 10 years, by parents, the crossing guards, Jacksonville Beach Police officers and Fletcher Middle School administrators.

The DOT, with the School Safety Committee, re-evaluated the crossing as Harm requested, but declined again to turn the lights on for Fletcher Middle's students. …

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