Council, parents split over crosswalk Latest vote on issue set for April NORTH--Manchester * Hampstead * Lineboro

March 24, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

The battle lines were drawn at a Hampstead Town Council meeting nearly four months ago, when residents requested a crosswalk near Spring Garden Elementary School.

The council has been talking about it ever since, but it hasn't decided whether to grant the request. At the March 15 council meeting, the panel split 2-2 on the issue, with one member absent.

Another vote is planned in April.

The issue centers on the intersection of Boxwood Drive and North Woods Trail, near Spring Garden Elementary School.

There are painted crosswalks across North Woods Trail on the west side of Boxwood Drive, and across Boxwood Drive on the south side of North Woods Trail.

Some parents who live northeast of the intersection think there should be another painted crosswalk -- across Boxwood Drive on the north side of North Woods Trail -- to guarantee their children a safe route to school, even though there is no sidewalk northeast of the intersection.

"The cheapest thing and the quickest thing is to put the two lines down," said Dwight Womer, whose 6-year-old son, Bryan, passes through the intersection on the way to school.

Mr. Womer, who is running for Town Council, said his son has no safe way to cross Boxwood Drive on his walk to school. The Womers live northeast of the intersection, and there are no crosswalks Bryan can use to cross Boxwood unless he goes north -- a block out of his way -- to Boxwood and Sycamore drives. Mr. Womer said that intersection has no crossing guard, and cars often run the stop signs.

Hampstead Councilman Lewis O. Keyser Jr. said the town should not paint a new crosswalk because federal guidelines say a crosswalk should not lead from a sidewalk to a grassy area, as it would if a crosswalk were drawn across Boxwood on the north side of the intersection.

"It's like the town is telling you to go ahead and walk on that man's grass," he said.

Mr. Keyser said the town has agreed to have its crossing guard continue to cross Bryan Womer at the unmarked crosswalk. "We have not jeopardized anyone's safety at all," he said.

The current crossing guard has agreed to cross Bryan at the unmarked crossing. But Mrs. Womer said she wants assurances that future crossing guards also would cross him there.

Hampstead Police Chief Kenneth F. Russell said pedestrians always have the right of way in a marked crosswalk. If a pedestrian is hit in a marked crosswalk, he said, the driver is assumed to be at fault.

Mayor Clint Becker, who is avoiding taking sides in the issue, said the neighborhood was deliberately planned with sidewalks on only one side of each street. The goal was to concentrate foot traffic and keep it away from vehicular traffic. Sidewalks and mailboxes were to be kept on one side of each street and parking was to be confined to the other, he said.

Gene Straub, the State Highway Administration's assistant district engineer for traffic, said town officials briefed him on the situation. He said the council would be "correct" to leave the intersection as it is.

The State Highway Administration has no jurisdiction in the case, Mr. Straub said, but if it did, "We would probably come up with the same recommendation" not to add another crosswalk.

He said it is accepted practice to try to confine foot traffic to sidewalks.

Spring Garden Elementary Principal Larry Bair said, "I think there should be a four-way crosswalk at that intersection."

Only one child is walking the route now. But there are 25 children who would walk it if they weren't being driven to school, he said, and in warmer weather more of them will walk.

Mr. Bair said a new park built last fall on the east side of Boxwood Drive will attract more children to the side of the road that has no sidewalks.

"The children are going to use that as a main course of travel," he said. "That's their instinct. That's what they will do."

Mr. Bair said he didn't think children would backtrack to Boxwood and Sycamore Drives just to use the painted crosswalk there. "They're going to take the shortest, easiest route," he said.

Richard Riddle, president of the Spring Garden PTA, said the group's executive council supports the Womers' crosswalk request.

Councilman Keyser said if neighborhood residents would install a sidewalk on the east side of Boxwood Drive, the town could paint a new crosswalk leading to it.

PD Unless that happens, the proposed crosswalk is likely to be scut

tled.

Councilman Gary Bauer, who missed the March 15 meeting, has said he opposes the crosswalk. His vote could break the 2-2 deadlock.

Michele Loudermilk, who provides day care for Bryan Womer at her home northeast of the intersection, said at the March 15 meeting that next year several more children in her care will be old enough to go to school and they will need a place to cross the street.

"Let's settle it now," she said.

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