Land deal approved for Ardrey Kell High crosswalk

by Mike Parks and Morgan Smith

(Above) Students dash across busy Ardrey Kell Road earlier this school year. The city and school hopes that, by the start of the next school year, a pedestrian crossing beacon will be set up and ready to go so students can cross safer. SCW file photo

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools approved handing over a parcel of land to the city last week, clearing one of the last hurdles before work can begin on a pedestrian safety beacon and sidewalk at Ardrey Kell High School.

The city will pay around $220,000 to install a pedestrian safety beacon to make it safer for the students who walk to and from class each day. The cash also will cover about 300 feet of sidewalk extension on Ardrey Kell Road around Travis Gulch Drive.

“We’re very happy that they’re going to put the sidewalk and the beacon there because we have a lot of students from the Southampton neighborhood down there and they would just dart across the street,” said Lisa Kelly, president of the school’s parent-teacher-student organization. “And it was pretty dangerous especially in the morning and in the dark.”

Kelly said about 50 students walk to school from around Travis Gulch, and the school has a police officer who helps direct traffic in the afternoons. But, as it is now, “I wouldn’t let my son walk across to the school in the morning,” Kelly said. Her son currently is a junior at Ardrey Kell.

“I think everyone is pretty happy to have something there and I know the people in Southampton that live off Travis Gulch are extremely pleased because they’ve been fighting there for a long-time,” Kelly added. “We’re just really happy because it’s something that we’ve discussed for years. It’s just a huge step in the right direction.”

Parents have been talking about getting a sidewalk or crosswalk installed for at least two years, said Anne Vail, co-chair of the school leadership team. A Garinger High School student was hit and killed by a car in March, and a crosswalk may eventually be added there.

“Ardrey Kell is a very busy street and people are crossing the road in the dark,” Vail said. “It’s almost a disaster waiting to happen and we don’t want to be the next school that loses a student before we get a response from the county and state.”

That response should start soon after students leave campus for the summer. Crews will first start work on moving some utility lines in the area, and installing new ones for the pedestrian beacon.

The beacon itself is one of less than five in the city. Most of the time it will sit idle, until someone comes up and presses the crossing button. The stop light will eventually switch over to red, allowing pedestrians time to cross. The special addition to this beacon is that, after a few seconds, the light will change to flashing red and work much like a stop sign. If pedestrians are safely across, the driver can go during the flashing red, though drivers still have to stop and check like they would at a stop sign before moving forward.

“The goal is to have everything up and running by August before school starts,” said Becky Chambers, the project engineer.

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