OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – Recent speeding and crashes just yards away from Sacred Heart School in North Omaha are once again raising concerns over the safety of children.
It’s been an issue for as long as custodian and crossing guard Charles Forbes III has worked there. That’s fourteen years.
“It’s just terrible,” he said. “Before something happens to our kids, we need something done.”
The school tried to get speed bumps installed twice by the city but was rejected each time.
“It shouldn’t take tragedy to drive change,” said assistant principal Chelsi Gulizia. “We need to take a proactive approach to keep our students and children safe and potential speed bumps could be the first step to helping solve this problem.”
Security camera footage with clear audio shows a red car speeding during school hours. Although the crash isn’t visible on tape, they can hear wheels screeching against the pavement and the impact of cars at the intersection of 22nd and Binney Streets.
This issue made it onto Sacred Heart STEM teacher “Mr. K’s” curriculum. He and his students calculated just how fast that red car was going. According to their math, the car was driving 42 MPH that Monday during school hours. The speed limit is 25 MPH.
Forbes said, as did the school, that it’s time to make a change.
“One lady sat over here one day, called her kid across the street. Two minutes later a car came whooshing (by),” said Forbes. “Timing would’ve been bad timing.”
Another instance caught on camera shows a green car speeding by as a group with a kid stands by. That was last month.
A day later, a crash happened.
“They do it every day. They either come up that way a couple times. They’re speeding down this way real fast and the kids are out here,” said Forbes.
One of those crashes ran up onto Kerry Glenn’s yard across the street. He has two boys at Sacred Heart and one graduate.
“It’s hectic, to say the least. Well, it’s too many speeding cars coming through first of all,” said Glenn. ”If I’m home, I’ll sit on the porch or watch them come across.”
Principal Mike Jensen applied for a traffic study in 2017 through the City of Omaha’s Neighborhood Traffic Calming Program. After being denied, the executive director of the CUES School System, which supports the school, applied again.
“We were rejected because the traffic count didn’t warrant,” said CUES executive director Bob Glow.
According to city traffic engineer Jeff Riesselman, petitions for change through this program must meet certain thresholds, including traffic volume of 1,000 cars per day and speed criteria where at least 15% of motorists are traveling above 30 miles per hour.
In April 2017, Binney Street near Sacred Heart missed both thresholds, according to Riesselman.
The count between April 11 and April 17 that year found 750 cars on average a day and 85% of drivers going 28.2 MPH or below.
When the study was conducted again in 2021 between April 12 and April 19, the street hit the speed requirement but not volume.
The radar count found fewer drivers, sitting at 566 per day, but clocking in at faster speeds. The study showed 15% of the drivers were going at speeds greater than 31 miles per hour.
“(They) said we don’t have enough traffic. Would a kid being hit be enough traffic?” said Forbes.
“I think the issue is that the school has only approached the City directly as part of our Neighborhood Traffic Calming Program and not outside of that for a more wide-range review that we often provide for schools,” Riesselman said.
Once that request is made, he said, one of the traffic engineers conducts a field observation and follow-up with the school.
“Our traffic calming program’s criteria exists to help us administer our limited resources to the implementation of traffic calming devices, but there is often other strategies that can be explored to mitigate safety concerns around schools. This is what we would be happy to meet with them about and then plan to make observations early in the next school year.”
“I don’t know that it needs to be speed bumps to try and control traffic on Binney Street…so that it’s not only safe for our kids, our family our staff, and our teachers,” Glow said.
He hopes they can work with the city to do something to finally make a change.
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