Parents ask for increased safety in Martinsburg Road school zone | #schoolsaftey

MOUNT VERNON — On Sept. 8, a driver on Parrot Street turned left onto Martinsburg Road, striking an 11-year-old boy as he was crossing Martinsburg Road.

The accident occurred at 2:55 p.m. as the youngster was on his way home from school.

On Monday, his mother spoke to city council members about the safety of youths in the areas of Parrot Street, Martinsburg Road, Jacket Drive, and Delano Street.

“I don’t think it’s any secret that we’re anticipating population growth,” Jennifer Yeager told council. “I also don’t think it is any secret that when it comes to the safety of our children who walk or bike to school, there are major concerns.

Yeager said the intersection causes anxiety because the roadways come from different directions, unlike a traditional perpendicular intersection.

“We have problems making left-hand turns. That creates anxiety among our drivers because when you have to wait make a left turn or wonder if you’re able to get out at all, you get a little bit anxious,” she said.

Yeager noted it also creates anxiety for the students waiting to cross Martinsburg Road.

“I don’t think it’s right to ask them to walk all of the way to Riley Street to cross, and then walk back up to their street,” she said.

Yeager said she believes it is imperative to at the least have a crosswalk on Martinsburg Road, a sidewalk on the other side of the road, and a sidewalk on Parrot Street.

“I am at home often enough during school hours to know that there are many more accidents that the police don’t know about because they are fender-benders or what not,” she said. “It happens a lot at that intersection.”

Unsafe for walkers

Emily Chenault has had a child attend either the middle or high school during the eight years she has lived on Parrot Street. She echoed Yeager’s concerns about Martinsburg Road lacking a crosswalk and Parrot Street lacking a sidewalk.

Mount Vernon City Schools does not provide transportation within one mile of the school. Chenault said that one mile extends north to Wendy’s on South Main Street and south to between Glen Road and Twin Oak Elementary.

On Parrot Street, it extends to where the street dead ends into Columbus Road.

Chenault said that according to the school’s transportation department, 28 households in the neighborhood of Delano, Parrot, Adamson, and Ames streets have children who attend the middle or high school.

She cited several reasons why Martinsburg Road is dangerous to cross:

•Children as young as 11 years old are crossing, oftentimes alone or in the dark

•A high proportion of teenage drivers

•Three streets in proximity with a lot of turns

•No school zone speed limit

Regarding the need for a sidewalk on Parrot Street, Chenault noted that it extends for a longer distance and crosses four major roads. The other neighborhood streets extend only two blocks.

“A lot of people also cut over from Harcourt Road on Johnson Avenue, so Parrot Street gets a lot of traffic,” she said. “They also love to rev their engines and drive really fast. We have had many close calls walking.”

Plan in progress

Police Chief Robert Morgan said a “several-stage plan” is in progress to address parents’ safety concerns.

“We feel there are several things in Stage 1 that we can do without a lot of requesting permission from the state since a lot of this is on state routes,” he said. “There’s a Stage 1 where we can add six crosswalks.

“Also, we will be petitioning the state of Ohio — ODOT — to expand and adjust the size of the 20-mile-per-hour speed limit zones to better serve the areas. We can do that fairly quickly.”

He also noted that the police department’s dedicated traffic officer is working to slow down drivers in that and other school zones.

Morgan said Stage 3 involves sidewalk construction and other initiatives that ODOT must approve.

School participation

MVCS Superintendent Bill Seder participated in a recent safety meeting with city officials that focused on school crossings, school zones, and sidewalks in the Martinsburg Road area.

In an email to Knox Pages on Thursday, he noted the short-term plans to add the crosswalks and re-evaluate the school speed zones.

“From a longer-term perspective, we would like to see more sidewalks in this area,” he said. “A design has been started, but funding for such projects can be quite expensive and grant applications take time.”

Seder said that on occasion, especially at the beginning of the year, the district has used its SRO to support incoming and outgoing traffic.

“Generally speaking, the primary responsibility of the SRO is to maintain safety and order within the school setting. Traffic issues outside of the school campus would generally fall on traffic patrol,” he said.

Regarding guard crossings, the district assigns staff members daily to support middle and high school students crossing Yellow Jacket Drive to Energy Field House. The district does not have student crossing guards at a secondary level.

“We do have student crossing guards at the elementary buildings,” he said.

The district provides transportation to all students outside of a one-mile radius, although Ohio law states the district can extend that to two miles.

Several buses turn from Martinsburg Road onto Parrot Street en route to drop off students outside of the one-mile radius. Seder asked the district’s transportation director to look at possible group drop-off locations between Martinsburg Road and Newark Road.

“Due to the fact that we currently have limited crossings and sidewalks in this area, we will carefully review routes and bus capacity to see if we can make changes to this area,” he said.

“We greatly appreciate the ability to work together with city officials to tackle these kinds of issues.”

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