Keeping an eye on the Whitlock flow of traffic: Council to consider more crosswalks by schools
by Hilary Butschek
August 22, 2014 04:00 AM | 2720 views | 4 4 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Marietta City Councilman Johnny Walker stands at a cross walk near West Side Elementary School on Thursday. <br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Marietta City Councilman Johnny Walker stands at a cross walk near West Side Elementary School on Thursday.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
slideshow
Josh Gazaway, left, and son Mason, 8, a second grader at West Side Elementary School, stand with Walker across from the school Thursday. <br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Josh Gazaway, left, and son Mason, 8, a second grader at West Side Elementary School, stand with Walker across from the school Thursday.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
slideshow
MARIETTA — Councilman Johnny Walker wants to add a few more strategically-placed crosswalks on roads bordering all 12 of Marietta’s schools.

He plans to raise the topic at Wednesday’s committee meeting.

Dan Conn, the city’s director of public works, said each crosswalk could cost between $22,500 and $52,500.

Marietta Schools Superintendent Emily Lembeck said the roads bordering the schools have crosswalks now that are often not used by students. But she has seen more people walking to and from school recently.

“The number of students walking to and from school has increased, as has the enrollment of West Side Elementary School and Marietta Middle School,” Lembeck said.

Walker said his suggestion stems from complaints by parents.

“I’ve been overwhelmed with calls that the residents want some sort of traffic solution to slow traffic down around schools. In the morning and in the afternoon, there’s a lot of kids that their parents walk them to school, and it’s dangerous to cross the street,” Walker said. “It would be a bad day in Marietta if a kid ever got hit by a car. I don’t want that to happen on my watch.”

Walker invited Lembeck and her staff to Wednesday’s meeting to have input on how to increase the safety of students who walk to school.

“We can try to figure this out together, because it’s not just the city’s issue. The school board needs to be involved as well,” Walker said.

Walker said he wants to install crosswalks with flashing lights to warn drivers people are crossing.

Lembeck said another way to address the problem could be to install speed tables.

Speed tables are the speed bumps that have a one- or two-foot wide flat section in the center.

Conn said a speed table would cost $1,500 to $2,500, but adding a crosswalk that can be used by disabled people would cost an extra $25,000 to $50,000 each.

Adding lights that flash as people cross would make it safer, Walker said, but he hasn’t figured out what they would cost yet.

“There’s different versions of (lights). Some are solar-operated and some are power-operated,” Walker said.

Lembeck said she wants to join in the discussion of the council next week to find a solution.

“Whether crosswalks or speed tables are added, the attention of drivers to speed and pedestrians should increase student safety,” Lembeck said.

Mayor Steve Tumlin said he supports the idea of looking into making it easier to walk home from schools because it will enhance the walkability of the city.

“I think more people are walking than they used to be, because people like living in our neighborhoods, and we love our neighborhood schools,” Tumlin said.

Varied problems on walk home

Josh Gazaway, an AP U.S. History teacher at Marietta High School, who walks his 8-year-old son, Mason, to West Side Elementary School every morning, said he can’t stand drivers who make it unsafe to walk when they speed down Maple Avenue, which borders the back of the school and has a speed limit of 25 mph.

“The biggest issue here is the speeding. I’ve seen people going 50 mph on this street,” Gazaway said. “I’ve even gone so far as to leave my truck parked on the street so people slow down, and I got a ($40) ticket from the police for that.”

Gazaway said he thinks more crosswalks would be helpful for people who want to walk, but speed bumps would make the area safer.

Marsha Durham, a physical education assistant teacher at West Side who helps direct the school’s pick-up line, said she has to keep students away from the line of cars so they aren’t in danger of being hit.

“It’s just really hard to have all the walkers cross right in front of the car rider line,” Durham said.

The car line at West Side takes about 20 minutes each day to cycle through the school because more than half of the children at the school are picked up by their parents.

Marietta High School Principal Leigh Colburn said the danger of walking home is different for high school students.

“We need to be concerned about crosswalks at the high schools. The issue is, a lot of times with high school students, is they don’t use them,” Colburn said. “The big complaint by motorists is that students don’t use the crosswalks.”

To make sure students are crossing safely, Colburn said, the crosswalks could be monitored by parents.

“I think it needs to be a parent group that gets set up to have one parent be with students while they cross,” Colburn said. “I don’t think it should be the responsibility of the police department.”

Lembeck said in her 20 years with the school system, she has never seen schools hire crosswalk guards.

When it comes to funding the project, Tumlin said he was open to discussion, but he thinks the money should come from the school board.

“The city will do (the project), but we’ll have to be reimbursed to do it,” Tumlin said. “The school board may say it’s your responsibility to have them on the road and so that’s a natural place where we might disagree.”

Comments
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Bus service
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August 22, 2014
I truly don't understand why the public refuse to allow their children to ride the bus to school! The bus alleviates traffic issues. The reason the traffic is so bad is due to car riders. Second, the high school children don't use the cross walks. Every day, they cut in front of my car, make disgusting gestures, and scream at people. MHS needs people at the cross walks. Last, the politicians refuse to make Whitlock/Polk a one way in the mornings and afternoons. You wouldn't have as much traffic on Polk if they opened Whitlock during rush hours. Whitlock is so congested because of mostly Paulding County traffic coming through CC. We should have a toll road on Marietta Hwy entering CC.
whitlock resident
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August 23, 2014
I drive down Whitlock each day while the students leave and cross the street. I've never seen or heard of students being anything other than polite, courteous or just minding their own business.
Could Happen
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August 22, 2014
To crosswalks r gr8-

You are correct about enabling drivers from west Cobb and Paulding County to drive through Marietta. Other than using Dallas Hwy/Whitlock Ave, drivers who want to go to downtown ATL or the Ashford-Dunwoody area can only get on the interstate via Thornton Rd. area or cutting to Barrett Pkwy.

To build other roads, property will have to be condemned and politicians are not willing to get into that hornet's nest.

The solution is for many of the Cobb politicians and insiders to personally buy some of the land and then the other roads will be built. Just like what happened for I-75 to be built through Cobb County. Politicians get ALL that info before the regular folks and they love to make money!

The amount of car riders around West Side ES would be greatly reduced if the parents could let their little precious darlings ride the school bus instead of their large SUV.

NO speed humps please. Increase the speeding tickets to $400 during school hours, BUT do not let the police dept keep the extra money. Take part of it and give it to the schools.

NOTE- Stilesboro at Old Hwy 41 is in the Cobb County PD jurisdiction, not the City of Marietta.
crosswalks r gr8
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August 22, 2014
So we don't know how much flashing light would cost for crosswalks, and we don't know we could possibly pay for crossing guards at school crosswalks. Let's start these calculations with the monetary potential for the average child attending, say, Westide Elementary, multiply it by the number of children and the number of years a flashing light is expected to last. There we will have the benefit. From the monetary benefit, excluding peoples' emotional attachments to their ankle biters, let's work backward from the dollar value to the price of installing some lights or paying some crosswalk guards, and let's include Stilesboro at Old 41 on the crosswalk guard list since the people out Stilesboro think they don't ever have to stop before turning right onto old 41, never, ever, not for any reason, not even a solid line of cars on old 41, a red light, a yield sign, and people using the crosswalk. Nope, they see no need to stop, not for one of those reasons, not even for ALL of those reasons combined! They are willing to stop only to avoid hitting the bumper of the car in front of them, but just about daily they don't even get that right.

Crosswalks are great, crosswalks with their own red lights are even better, but better yet would be sending the never ending plague of cars AROUND Marietta rather than leaving loop 120 unfinished, bisecting the city and dumping the cars onto Whitlock to wreak havoc in our neighborhoods.

BUILD THE WEST HALF OF THE LOOP THAT NEVER GOT BUILT AND ALL THESE PROBLEMS WE HAVE WITH DRIVERS WILL VANISH

Finishing Loop 120 is a long term project, and let's get started on it today, but in the short term, the fastest and most effective action we can take is encouraging drivers to find alternate paths by increasing their driving pain while lessening our walking pain as residents of the City.

To put the pain back on the people who commute to their country house every day rather than holiday weekends, we simply need to remove the right-side passing bubble-outs from Whitlock, leaving drivers behind someone waiting to turn left.

As things are with the right-side bubble outs, the never ending plague of cars just passes the left turners on the right, using the bubble outs. Thus, the never ending plague of cars never ends.

For some reason we thought it better to facilitate a nonstop flow of cars through our city than to facilitate life for those of us who live here. Why did we do that back in the 1980s and 1990s? WHAT were we thinking? Was City Council full of real estate guys trying to make a buck or what???

We need to pop Whitlock's bubbles TODAY! We would then see gaps in the never ending plague of cars while folks wait on left turners ahead of them, and we could cross Whitlock in something less than a panicked dash for our lives.

If we are lucky, some of the drivers of the plague of cars might get frustrated enough to drive another way than through the center of our city neighborhoods. If they tried an alternate route and discovered the new and improved Windy Hill suits them better, or if they choose to work somewhere they can actually get to, or if they, heck, take personal responisbility and MOVE, then it's a win win. WE win. THEY win too.

Let's quit being enablers and thinking we can make it all better for the people who chose to drive to their house in the country every day. They are dependent, but we don't have to get our own fix off their drama. Leave them to the pain they caused for themselves. Stop accommodating more and more cars. Go the other direction. Narrow Whitlock so nobody can pass on the right, and let the healing begin!

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