04/23/06 — Police keep eye on school crossing

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Police keep eye on school crossing

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on April 23, 2006 2:04 AM

Officials are continuing to look at ways to make crossing East Ash Street safer after a 2005 incident that left two eighth-graders injured.

For now, increased patrols are slowing down traffic, city and school officials say, but there are other possibilities that could be considered in the future to make crossing the street to school safer for Greenwood Middle and Meadow Lane Elementary students

A bridge over East Ash Street, linking Greenwood Middle and Meadowlane, might be a solution the city could pursue in the future.

Goldsboro City Manager Joe Huffman said the state Department of Transportation has $1 million this year to construct safety devices within two miles of kindergarten-through-eighth-grade schools. He said the state would have more money for the program in the future.

That available funding might allow the city of Goldsboro to offer an alternative -- and safer -- means for students to get to school, he said.

"A bridge might be a possibility," Huffman said. "An overhead walkway would be an ideal situation."

Huffman added he would have to look more closely at the program and its possibilities before the city could consider the project.

Concerns about safe passage for the students at both schools came about after two 13-year-old eighth-graders, Mackenzie Wessels and Carson Thomas, were critically injured Nov. 18, 2005, when they were struck as they used the crosswalk to cross the street with the green light.

Both were taken to Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville. Wessels was released in about a week. Thomas stayed a much longer time and has returned home, but he was said to be "profoundly brain-injured."

The first safety addition to the area after the collision was school-zone warning lights on East Ash Street. The state paid for the lights that were erected by the city. Other traffic devices were also upgraded this week.

Goldsboro police also have stepped up patrols in the area. They have issued numerous speeding citations, including about a dozen on one day recently.

Police Maj. Mike Hopper, who supervises the patrol division, said his officers will continue patrolling the area.

Greenwood Principal Larry Dean said he has noticed an increased police presence.

"They are trying to be there as much as possible and be a lot more visible," Dean said.

Hopper said he had talked with a woman who lives near the school.

"She said she had noticed that the traffic had slowed down," he said.

Dean said he and his staff have seen many more vehicles stopped in front of or near the school.

Hopper said drivers tended to speed up as they drove east from Berkeley Boulevard to leave the city or did not slow down enough as they left U.S. 70 and came west on Ash Street. The speed limit is 35 mph on Ash Street, except around the schools, where it is 25.