A group of residents is threatening to take legal action to get a new school zone crosswalk in an area city officials say is too dangerous for a designated crossing.
The group has been fighting for two years to get a ladder-type crosswalk painted on Newcastle Drive near Richard Road, two main streets curving through a subdivision north of 9400 South and west of Highland Drive."We have 52 kids crossing a very dangerous street," said Ed Hayden, chairman of the Silver Mesa School Community group. "The parents are emotionally charged. They see kids play `dodge the cars,' and they don't like it. If something isn't done, we'll file a class-action suit."
But the city of Sandy is not going to paint the crosswalk, said transportation engineer Mike Frisbie. "If a crosswalk was warranted (there), it would be in already," he said.
Area residents were shocked by the Friday morning injury of a boy who was hit by a car as he ran across Highland Drive just east of the Newcastle Drive intersection to catch his school bus. The incident reinforces their argument that the area streets are speedways that need more crosswalks, said parent Judy Amthor.
But city and state officials who are working to introduce uniform statewide regulations for school-zone crossings say crosswalks - particularly those in areas where children can't see distant oncoming traffic - can be more dangerous than an unpainted street.
"If you put (a crosswalk) where it's not warranted, it gives the kid a false sense of security," Frisbie said. "If you want to hurt someone, put in an unwarranted crosswalk."
Even if pedestrians do have clear views of oncoming traffic, they can be lulled into thinking they are safe in a crosswalk, Frisbie said. Only a week ago, a Sandy woman was critically injured as she walked across 9000 South in a school-zone crosswalk on a street with clear sight lines.
Frisbie said that Newcastle Drive's curvy topography doesn't meet city or state criteria for safe school-zone crosswalks. In Sandy, a formula determines safe school-zone "sight distance." Quantified in either the time an intersection remains clear or the actual distance a pedestrian can see down a street, sight distance must be adequate for a child to see any oncoming car for the entire time it takes to look both ways, decide to cross the street and then make the crossing, Frisbie said.
Newcastle Drive, which angles northward west of its intersection with Highland Drive, "wasn't even close" to qualifying under the city formula, Frisbie said. Further, the state Department of Transportation is now setting uniform standards for crosswalks that will be implemented statewide, and a crosswalk on Newcastle Drive at Richard Road would not conform, he said.
It is up to the parents and teachers, Frisbie said, to teach the children the necessity of walking to Highland Drive.
But Hayden said that children from the northern area of the subdivision simply will not walk out of their way to reach Highland Drive.