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City reopens controversial hike-and-bike trail crossing

By ERICA RODRIGUEZ
Oct. 11, 2010 at 5:11 a.m.

Marissa Camargo, 15, begins to cross John Stockbauer Drive at the  hike-and-bike trail as a car whizzes past her after school. Marissa, who walks home from school this way every day, said cars usually stop when they see her waiting in the crosswalk.

CROSSING AT A CROSSWALK The Texas Transportation Code outlines the following rules for pedestrians and motorists at crosswalks:

A pedestrian may not suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and enter a crosswalk in the path of a vehicle if it impossible for the driver to yield.

A driver may not pass a vehicle that is stopped to yield to a pedestrian.

A driver should yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing a roadway in a crosswalk when:

(1) There is no traffic control signal and the pedestrian is:

(A) on the side of the road where the vehicle is traveling; or

(B) approaching dangerously close from the opposite half of the road.

SOURCE: Texas Transportation Code

Marissa Camargo, 15, stood Monday in the middle of the five-lane John Stockbauer Drive and waited for traffic to whiz by at 40 miles per hour.

"It's better this way because a lot of people don't like to walk over there to the stoplights," she said, pointing to Ben Jordan Street.

The Lone Tree Hike and Bike Trail was reopened last week after pedestrians continued to tear down city barricades.

"It was doing absolutely no good," said Jimmy Roach, city deputy director of public works.

The crossing was closed, and a pedestrian-activated flashing yellow light was removed after a child was struck while walking across last year.

The city then planned to spend about $90,000 to reroute the trail to cross at the lighted intersection on Ben Jordan Street.

Instead, the council voted 7-0 during a work session last week to reopen the trail and rededicate the money to build sidewalks along Mockingbird Lane.

"We knew that we were going to have to do that at some point," said Councilman Paul Polasek. "It's always easier to do things that have good support from the public."

The decision came after hearing a plea from Genaro Macias III, an 18-year-old East High School student. Macias presented the council last week with 1,800 signatures of East and West high school students, faculty, staff and nearby residents asking for the sidewalks and second entrances to the campuses.

"I'm not just doing it for myself," he said. "We have to worry about our siblings, our future."

The sidewalks are estimated to cost about $226,000 and are expected to be installed in the next few months.

But the reopening of the trail brings new dangers. A sign warning motorists to yield to pedestrians still looms in front of the the striped intersection, yet few motorists heed the warning.

"It depends on what kind of people are passing by," Marissa said. "Some people, they don't even care. They just go by and some people, they do and they stop, and you can just cross over."

Steve Perez, 63, a nearby resident watches students cross dangerously every day.

"Somebody's going to get seriously hurt," he said.

Perez said the worst times are when East High School students are walking to and from school.

Roach said despite the trail reopening, pedestrians should try to cross at Ben Jordan Street.

"The trail is open, but we do not encourage pedestrians to cross John Stockbauer at that location," he said.

Other crosswalks along the trail have a pedestrian-activated flashing yellow light that stops traffic for people to cross. Roach said he believes the flasher at Stockbauer was confusing.

"I kind of believe it created a false sense of security, and it also confused motorists," he said. "It was a very unsafe situation there."

Marissa said she doesn't feel unsafe when crossing, but she would like to see the lights installed again.

"It would be better if they put those lights back on right here," she said.

Perez believes the city has taken steps backward and has made the intersection as unsafe as ever for students who cross.

"They're at their mercy," he said of the students. "They can't do anything now."

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