Lantana officials focus on street safety

Lantana fresh water supply district officials approved two items Monday night related to improving safety at a busy school crosswalk in the wake of an accident last week involving a child.

During a special joint FWSD #6 & #7 meeting, board members voted to install in-roadway “Yield to Pedestrians” pavement markings near the Lantana Trail crosswalk at Stacee Lane and fund an off-duty police officer to man the crosswalk before and after school for the rest of the school year at a cost not to exceed $8,000.

A proposal on the table to make the intersection a three-way stop was not approved.

Ten residents attended the meeting.  A majority of residents that addressed the board during the public comments portion of the meeting said that they favored stop signs as a solution to their safety concerns.

There are currently no stop signs on Lantana Trail, which is a four-lane, divided thoroughfare that runs three miles in length through the middle of the master planned development and has a posted speed limit of 40 mph.

Board members discussed the pros and cons of stop signs at length.

“I don’t see a real downside to breaking up Lantana Trail with stop signs. In fact I think it would enhance the feel of the residential neighborhood. Right now it feels like we have an interstate,” said District #6 board member Jim VanVickle.

Another District #6 board member, Donna Robichaux, said that Lantana’s roads should be more in line with other nearby master-planned communities.

“I know that some people don’t like the idea of stop signs, and I know there is a question about where and how we can put them up. But I was driving through Bridlewood and Wellington today around the time school let out and there are stop signs everywhere.  And you are very likely to get a ticket if you speed…they don’t play games,” said Robichaux. “I think we have been very lax out here, it is time for us to make a hard decision.”

District #6 board member Max Miller said that awareness and enforcement are two of the biggest challenges the community faces.

“We could add stop signs all day but we need someone to enforce our existing traffic laws,” said Miller.

A concern raised by Lantana General Manager Kevin Mercer was that adding any new traffic controls like stop signs could jeopardize the district’s pending traffic enforcement petition that is expected to be approved by county commissioners next Tuesday.  The petition states that all existing traffic controls in Lantana would be enforced by the county.

Clay Crawford, who serves as Lantana’s attorney, said that in light of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s ruling that fresh water supply districts do not have the authority to adopt and enforce traffic regulations on the streets inside their communities, there are limits to the districts’ ability to add new signage.

“I think we need to work with the county going forward. We have submitted requested traffic rules to them (on the petition), and as part of the process we will have some definitive discussions with the county on the mechanics of how all this will work as we move forward,” said Crawford.

Board members were also advised by Kevin Carlson, the districts’ civil engineer, that a traffic study should be undertaken before stop signs could be added. However, Carlson cautioned the boards that the study may not show a need for them.

In the end, the final decision was up to the three members in attendance of the five-member FWSD #7 board, since the intersection lies in their district.

Stop signs received a cool reception from a majority of the #7 board.

“The traffic controls we have in place at the intersection meet all of the uniform code standards. It’s verbatim exactly what the standards call for,” said District #7 board member David Ware.

The district installed pedestrian-activated crosswalk signs in fall 2010 and a school zone this past January.

“We have already got three controls in place. We’ve got the pedestrian panels flashing, the school zone and a law that says you are not supposed to be on your cell phone.

“Stop signs become a placebo effect…people don’t come to complete stops…pedestrians over trust stop signs,” said Ware.

District #7 board member Alex Teusink made a motion to convert the intersection to a three-way stop, but the motion died for lack of a second.

Other ideas that were considered but nixed included using volunteers as crossing guards, adding rumble strips and lowering the speed limit on Lantana Trail near the school zone.

Mercer told the board that he called the county sheriff’s office right after the accident and a deputy has been out at the intersection daily during mornings and afternoons citing motorists who speed through the school zone.  He said he anticipates the stepped-up police presence would continue until an officer is hired as a crossing guard.

Denton County Commissioner Andy Eads attended the meeting and offered to help residents apply for a grant with the National Safe Routes to School Program that funds projects that assist children to safely ride a bike or walk to school.

The special meeting was called after an 8-year-old Lantana girl was struck by a vehicle while crossing Lantana Trail on her way to Blanton Elementary School on Wednesday morning. She was not seriously injured.

The main cause of the accident was listed on the police report as impaired visibility. The 16-year-old male driver told police that his windshield had fogged over and he failed to see the bicyclist.  Driver inattention and failure to maintain speed may have also contributed to the incident, the report stated.  No charges were filed against the teen.

“The actions taken tonight will give the boards time to really get their arms around what the permanent solution is for the next school year,” said District #6 president Ross Ferguson.

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