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U-CF School Board votes to share cost of crosswalks in front of Unionville schools

09/19/2017 12:40PM ● Published by J. Chambless

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

Longtime concerns about the safety of students crossing Route 82 in front of Unionville High School and Patton Middle School took a big step on Sept. 18 as the Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board voted unanimously to share the cost of designing a new crosswalk.

During public comment at the beginning of the meeting, one resident of Fox Lee Manor told the board, “Drivers whip around that corner. As soon as the crossing guard leaves, it's a highway out there. It took me 27 minutes to cross the street on back-to-school night because nobody would stop and give me the right to walk. This is putting pedestrians in harm's way,” she said.

One man took a different approach, asking the board, “Is this a school district issue or an enforcement issue? The district provides for crossing guards. At all other times, why isn't this the responsibility of the township? Why should the district pay when the township should pay for enforcing the speed limit?”

The vote came about after township supervisors became aware of federal grant money that would pay for the construction costs of a more robust crosswalk system if the design was paid for by other sources. The design cost is estimated to be $180,000. The township asked the school district to split that cost, which will then lead to a grant that will cover the actual construction, estimated to total $900,000.

Attending the meeting were East Marlborough Township Manager Laurie Prysock, as well as Richard Hannum, the chairman of the Board of Supervisors. Randy Waltermyer, from Traffic Planning and Design, presented a proposed design for the traffic-calming solution and crosswalk. He said the fact that the project is in a school zone and intended to increase safety would make it a very good candidate to secure the federal funding.

“We are proposing adding 1,200 feet of new sidewalk, and upgrading the two existing crosswalks. Those two are 62 feet wide, crossing five lanes of the road. That is a very long crosswalk,” Waltermyer said. “Our goal is to have as little width as possible to reduce the potential for an accident. In the southbound direction, we are proposing the elimination of the right-turn lane at both entrances to Manor Drive. That narrows the distance to 49 feet.”

The speed limit is 45 miles per hour along that section of Route 82, and while crossing guards control traffic during the morning and afternoon, numerous people use the school facilities for after-school sports or other programs, and must cross the busy road.

“It's a wide road, with few vertical obstructions, so your brain is saying you can go fast,” Waltermyer said. “That's what we're trying to counteract. We are proposing a rapid-flashing beacon overhead on a mast arm over Route 82. This gives you protection seven days a week. There would be a push button on either side of the road to activate the lights. Also, there is a proposed median refuge, making it two crossings instead of one. Pedestrians could wait on that island to cross the other lane if they wanted to.

We're looking to build a sidewalk on school district's frontage as well.”

The school board will be involved in the whole process, and there will be a minimum of two public meetings, Waltermyer said.

After more than half an hour of discussion, the school board voted unanimously to fund the district's half of the design cost, not to exceed $90,000. The grant should be approved early next year, but actual construction wouldn't begin until about 2020.

During public comment, several residents spoke about another safety concern. This year, a school bus is stopping on Parkersville Road to load and unload students. Nearby residents said the location has obstructed visibility and puts students in danger. In previous years, the bus has backed onto a side street for loading and unloading.

Kathy Do, a former school board member and a resident of Pennsbury Township, echoed the concerns of other residents. “Two or three weeks ago, I met some neighbors at the bus stop. I was shocked that the bus stopped heading south on Parkersville Road and students had to cross the street,” she said. “That's a blind curve. The fact that we have children crossing that street is really unthinkable. These parents have reached out on numerous occasions to the Transportation Department and have been told that nothing can be done. I believe something can be done. This is an easy fix. You need to add two minutes to that route and change that stop.”

District superintendent John Sanville asked for contact information for the parents, and several board members thanked them for bringing the issue to their attention.

For updates on district activities, visit www.ucfsd.org.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.

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