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Buckhead intersection concerns parents, residents
by Megan Thornton
mthornton@neighbornewspapers.com
September 30, 2013 04:26 PM | 2790 views | 5 5 comments | 77 77 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff / Samantha M. Shal / Travis Ward, right, talks with her daughters Aislin, 9, left, and Lila, 12, while waiting for the crosswalk light to change at the intersection of Northside Drive, Arden Road and Castlewood Drive.
Staff / Samantha M. Shal / Travis Ward, right, talks with her daughters Aislin, 9, left, and Lila, 12, while waiting for the crosswalk light to change at the intersection of Northside Drive, Arden Road and Castlewood Drive.
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Staff / Samantha M. Shal / Travis Ward, right, walks with her daughters Lila, 12, left, and Aislin, 9, home from Sutton Middle School, where Lila is in seventh grade. The intersection of Northside Drive, Arden Road and Castlewood Drive, which only has one crosswalk, makes the walk feel unsafe for many students and families.
Staff / Samantha M. Shal / Travis Ward, right, walks with her daughters Lila, 12, left, and Aislin, 9, home from Sutton Middle School, where Lila is in seventh grade. The intersection of Northside Drive, Arden Road and Castlewood Drive, which only has one crosswalk, makes the walk feel unsafe for many students and families.
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After Sutton Middle School relocated to the former North Atlanta High School campus in August, neighbors noticed more young students — without a driver’s license but old enough to walk home alone from school — walking each day along Northside Drive to get to and from the campus.

But some are concerned the treacherous intersection just a few hundred yards away is putting these children at risk.

The Georgia Department of Transportation plans to renovate the intersection at Northside, Arden Road and Castlewood Drive in 2014, but one parent said waiting that long poses a huge risk for all pedestrians.

Travis Ward, a parent of a seventh-grader at Sutton, has already secured almost 180 signatures on an online petition urging GDOT and the city of Atlanta to make the intersection safer sooner rather than later.

“We’ve heard so many accidents happen out here,” Ward, who lives about a block away, said of the intersection. “It’s crazy. It’s just a regular thing to hear the smashing of cars.”

As Ward walked to pick up her daughter from school Monday, she pointed to the north end of the five-way intersection where there is no sidewalk to access a MARTA bus stop. She then clutched her youngest daughter’s hand to cross the only striped pedestrian crosswalk, saying the electronic crossing signal is not calibrated with the traffic light.

“A lot of times what happens is kids get here, they wait and wait, and then they dart across,” Ward said. “Or they will sit on the ground and wait. There is no sidewalk for them to wait on and keep them away from all the cars.”

She and her neighbors that live too close to the school are not allowed to have their children ride Atlanta Public Schools buses. She could drive to pick up her daughter each day, but a line of cars turning into Sutton’s back parking lot made it apparent that option would be even more time-consuming.

“I’ve seen parents out here serving as crossing guards on most days,” she said. “It’s not safe and it needs to be fixed.”

Josh Goldfarb, president of the Castlewood Neighborhood Association, said when the school was North Atlanta, older students were more apt to drive or take the bus and were able to make smarter decisions as pedestrians.

“It’s such a material change affecting the pedestrian flow of traffic and now that intersection doesn’t work anymore,” he said.

Kathy Zahul, a GDOT traffic engineer, said she has reviewed Ward’s petition and many of the suggested improvements are included as part of the Northside Drive/U.S. 41 safety improvement project, which she recognized has been much delayed since discussions began in 2004.

The intersection improvements include new crosswalks, traffic signals, and Americans with Disabilities Association Act-compliant wheelchair ramps, Zahul said. The entire Northside project involves removing the reversible lane, relocating utilities and revamping the sewer system.

Fluffie Tambke, another Castlewood resident, said a friend of hers was in an accident at the intersection eight years ago. Though she went down to the capitol and lobbied for improvements, nothing has changed.

“Arden and Northside have been totally neglected,” she said. “A year from now? That’s just not okay.”

In an email Monday, Sutton principal Audrey Sofianos said she is supportive of sidewalks and "anything that will help boost safety in the community and for all children.”

Ward said she is in continual talks with Zahul and other officials to increase the scope of the project to add sidewalks north of Arden, so she can finally walk her daughter to and from school rather than park in front of a nearby house. Plans do not include the sidewalk because of federal requirements, easements and a potential need for right-of-way acquisition that would delay the current project, Zahul wrote in an email Friday.

Comments
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Emilykm
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October 06, 2013
It is sad to think that it will take a child (or adult) getting seriously injured, or worse killed, before sidewalks north of arden are put in. I see many people standing at the Marta bus stop everyday, and especially during inclement weather, can't help but think how endangered their life is standing practically on the street, since there is no sidewalk. It is really sad that our city won't spend the little bit of money to make this area safe for all. I hope something gets done before someone gets seriously injured.
LeliaP
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October 05, 2013
Thanks to all involved for your work to make our streets safer! I hope this can be accomplished quickly - keep it up!
Pete Canalichio
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October 05, 2013
I hope it doesn't take a child getting seriously hurt or worse before someone in the city decides to act. It seems crazy they didn't foresee this as an issue before they switched schools!
Bob M.
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October 02, 2013
So what is the point of this article? A bunch of people complaining that a funded project is delayed? I would think they would be celebrating it didn't get cut in this budget mess. How about getting the school to hire a crossing guard or, better yet, how about the concerned parents volunteer their time to protect the kids? The government can't do everything.
Allison B.
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October 06, 2013
1. It's not just a delayed project, it's been delayed for TEN YEARS. That's not reason to complain?

2. The Atlanta public school system budget is cut to the bone. They are letting teachers go, so hiring crossing guards is not an option. However, if you can get a crossing guard hired, feel free to prove me wrong.

3. Concerned parents ARE trying to protect these kids. Hence the efforts profiled in this article. Concerned parents ARE outside the school when school lets out, but since most parents these days are holding down a job, they can't be there to walk their child(ren) across the street. Because they are WORKING.

4. "The government" is funded by our tax dollars. I personally pay thousands of dollars each year to the city of Atlanta and Fulton County, not to mention the federal government. Why shouldn't we ask for something in return that protects our children?
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