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Missoula crosswalk has some parents worried about dangers

By Faith Smith, KECI Reporter, fcronin@keci.com
Published On: Oct 07 2013 10:35:42 PM MDT
MISSOULA, Mont. -

Potentially dangerous crosswalks near Paxson Elementary School in Missoula have some parents on edge.  Now the City of Missoula is stepping in with a plan to make things safer.

Monday afternoon NBC Montana spoke to parents about their concerns and city planners about possible solutions.  

Missoula mother Angela Allred tells us she walks her children to and from Paxson Elementary School every single day and she says the scariest part of the walk is crossing at the Hill Street crosswalk.

“You've got fast traffic everywhere and the roundabout [drivers] are just kind of focused on 'Did I yield?' and not thinking 'Is there a child down there?'” says Allred.  

“Children like to run a little ahead and when you stop here [at the Hill Street crosswalk] you see that cars can be going too fast and that's the concern is that it's going to take an accident happening before we do something about it.”  

Missoula mom Jordan Labbe tells me the city recently painted the crosswalk to make it stand out but it's just not enough.

“We don't stand out and then they are surprised by us when we come out,” says Labbe.  “The section on Hill is too short.  They can't see us and there are a lot of visual barriers.”  

NBC Montana wanted to find out what Missoula is doing to fix the problem.  

Doug Harvy, the construction project manager with city engineering, says they are currently working on plans to help make pedestrians who want to cross more visible.

“We want to try and shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians,” Harvy tells us.  “Removing some parking, narrowing the driving lanes and just reconfiguring the intersection a little bit.”

Harvy says they are planning on extending some curbs surrounding the roundabout even farther into the roundabout so that drivers have to slow down.

He says for extra safety the city will also be adding a set of blinking pedestrian lights along Higgins Avenue so drivers know that they need to slow down while children are crossing.

“I think a blinking light [near the Hill Street crosswalk] would be the answer,” Labbe tells NBC Montana.

Allred agrees that something needs to be done to improve pedestrian safety in the area.    

“I know expense is there but when it comes to your future generation is it worth it?” Allred says.    

City planners tell us the extra pedestrian crossing lights on Higgins Avenue will be installed within the next three weeks.

Plans to revamp the Hill Street crosswalk are expected by early December.

The principal at Paxson Elementary School tells us administrators are working to secure grant money to help pay for renovations.  They are also considering a motion-censor signal, or signal button for pedestrians to alert drivers when they are ready to cross.

NBC Montana will continue to follow this story and bring you the latest details when we learn more.