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City applies for grant to improve intersection where car hit crossing guard

Source: KXXV Source: KXXV
HEWITT, TX (KXXV) -

The City of Hewitt applied for a Texas Department of Transportation grant to increase safety at an intersection where a crossing guard was injured after being hit by a car in 2015.

If awarded the $575,579 from the 2017 TxDOT Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside program grant, the city would add sidewalks in front of Midway Middle School and on Panther Way near the National United Bank.

"That's one of the biggest safety concerns, if they are walking on the side of the road, sometimes people fade to the right. We want to make sure nobody gets hurt,” Hewitt Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Passalugo said.

 In addition, crossing guards who are going to help a child cross the road would have access to a call button that would eventually turn all the traffic lights in the intersection red. Furthermore, there would be changes to the signage for the school zone.

“You got a total of 28,000 cars that go down Hewitt Drive every day and as this area continues to grow, we have to look at the safety of the kids and the crossing guards,” Passalugo said.

Richter returned to be a crossing guard at that intersection after the accident.

"I had to prove to myself that I could do because I wasn't sure I had the ability to do it because I wasn't sure if I was going to be afraid. Second reason is that I didn't know anybody else would want to do it because this is not an easy intersection,” Richter said.

She said some of the drivers who travel through this area are in a hurry.

"Mostly turning on us on these turning lanes and they still go through the red light and that's the most dangerous part of it,” Richter said.

Richter is supportive of the city pursuing the TXDOT grant.

"I think it's great. The more safety you put here, the better is going to be for those children, the people who live in those apartments,” Richter said.

She said the ideal would be having an overpass in that area so children don’t have to be near cars. However, she said she welcomes any proposed improvements to that area.

"We are happy that they're starting to do something and people are starting to realize this is not a safe intersection,” Richter said.

In the past, smaller improvements have been made to that area, including expanding the school zone and changing the traffic light patterns of that intersection.

The grant would cover 90 percent of the project costs, which means the city would have to pay 10 percent or a little over $53,000 for its completion. In a letter of support, Midway ISD Superintendent Dr. George Kazanas said the district may also be interested in contributing to see this project completed.

Midway ISD Spokeswoman Traci Marlin said the district wants to help contribute and make sure the 10 percent funding obligation is met so that is not a barrier to get kids to school safely.

"It can improve visibility, it can improve the process and the flow and it can improve the overall safety for all of our children,” Marlin said.

In April, the city decided not to apply for the grant because it thought at the time, an engineering stud, which the city would have to pay for, would be required. The city later found out that wasn't the case, so it submitted an application with letters of support from Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson, Midway ISD, the Waco Metropolitan Planning Organization and a community group called "Mothers of Midway."

"Somethings are out of our hands with the school district getting to and from school can be one of those things, even from funding for transportation as well as funding for infrastructure getting to and from school. It feels so good that the city of Hewitt and even a State Representative are on our side trying to make sure the very best can be provided for our children,” Marlin said.

Rep. Anderson (R-56) who learned about safety improvements needed at that intersection after Richter and another crossing guard contacted him said it was important for him to show his support for the project.

"I wanted to try and support Hewitt's efforts to increase the safety for children in a very busy intersection there and help support them and try to make permanent changes to that intersection so it can be safe for the general public,” Anderson said.

The city is expected to find out whether it is awarded the grant within six months.

If it doesn’t get the grant, Passalugo said the city would still put in sidewalks.

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