The City Responds

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The City Responds

A Freshman student at Lake Ridge High School was struck by a car while crossing Day Miar.

A Freshman student at Lake Ridge High School was struck by a car while crossing Day Miar.

Connor Thompson

A Freshman student at Lake Ridge High School was struck by a car while crossing Day Miar.

Connor Thompson

Connor Thompson

A Freshman student at Lake Ridge High School was struck by a car while crossing Day Miar.

Connor Thompson, ENN Staff

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Just after 3 PM, September 6th, students rush to leave their classes at Lake Ridge High School to begin their weekend. However, this Friday was different. A freshman was struck by a car while he was crossing the road, having to be airlifted to the hospital.

This highlights several traffic issues that Lake Ridge students and parents have been concerned about since the school first opened.

For one, the speed limit in front of the church close to the school was 45 miles per hour in a place where many students cross the street. This was remedied on September 12th, 6 days after the accident, when the school zone of Lake Ridge was expanded towards the church.

Connor Thompson
Atmos Energy was out on September 12th marking gas lines. This process is typical when construction is about to begin.

However, the speed limit isn’t the only issue that presented itself in the accident. According to Jeff Smith, Assistant Chief for the Mansfield Fire Department, a 2-lane road makes it challenging for emergency vehicles to get through traffic, due to the lack of places for students and parents to pull over.

“The road only being two lanes does make it difficult for vehicles to get through. However, the current plans for the road should improve our emergency responses,” said Smith.

In response to the accident, on September 12th, the city moved one of the school zone signs further south towards the bridge. This is only the beginning of a series of changes, according to David Boski, Assistant Director of Public Works and Transportation at the City of Mansfield.

“Day Miar is currently under design as a four lane undivided roadway and we are going to add pedestrian elements to it, meaning we’re going to add sidewalks along that roadway. Construction will begin later next year. And in addition, we are expanding the school zone that’s out there today to add stops just north of Seeton road and will be extended south just between the two church driveways, and that’s being moved today,” said Boski.

According to Bart Van Amburgh, Engineer at the City of Mansfield, he and his team have studied remedies to address the drainage issues on Day Miar. In their future design for the roadway, they plan to expand the roadway to four undivided lanes, place sidewalks on both sides, and create traffic lights to help pedestrian crossing. These plans have been in the works for nearly two years, according to Amburgh, ever since the city began brainstorming drainage solutions for the area around Lake Ridge.

What we studied the earliest was the drainage when Grand Meadow Blvd. was built. And then, in late 2017, funding was authorized to go ahead and develop construction plans for the road. So in March 2018 we contracted to develop construction plans. Just as Grand Meadow Blvd. was being built, we used the same consulting engineering firm to do a more detailed analysis of the drainage along the side of Day Miar. It was through that effort that we decided to improve the roadway. So we always wanted to widen the road, put in more sidewalks, and put traffic lights on intersections,” said Amburgh.

Connor Thompson
Day Miar Road runs across the front of Lake Ridge High School.

According to Casey Lewis, City Councilman, the city council met on September 9th to discuss possible solutions to the issue on Day Miar. The city council voted 6-1 to approve the $25 Million Capital Improvement plan, which outlines a budget which includes the improvement of Day Miar. Lewis was the one vote in opposition. Lewis claims that the new Capital Improvement plan would place the City of Mansfield $7 Million dollars in debt, because the money is from bond debt, not cash. He said that delaying the project would allow significant financial gains and help the city use the $7 million for the general fund.

$7 million is not being spent with cash, it’s bond debt. And so, that debt has a $500-ish thousand a year payment associated with it. By not issuing that debt now, and eliminating other projects from the future. Then it would have given us an extra half million dollars to add to the general fund every year, and over a 10-year period, that’s $5 million extra in a sense to swing the city budget into a circle, in about 7 years or so,” said Lewis.

Lewis also believes that the Capital Improvement plan, which includes improving Day Miar, would not improve safety, despite a 4-lane roadway providing space for emergency vehicles, and that instead of expanding the road, they should construct sidewalks, crosswalks, and lowering the speed limit.

Widening Day Miar does not make it a safer road. Making a road wider to accommodate for cars does not make a road safer for students crossing the street. What does make it more safe is widening the road way a little bit better, adding an additional crosswalk over towards Seeton Road, lowering the speed limit on Day Miar, and expanding the cross walk a bit. These are all things I was saying we were going to do, it had nothing to do with financial gains over student safety. That’s not what I ever proposed. What I proposed was delaying the full, final road construction and expansion until 2022 because the roadway is primarily for drainage issues, not for student safety. It’s for vehicular traffic, and the more cars you pack on the road, it’s gonna make it less safe, not more safe. All of those were my arguments for it, I was pushing that we increasing widening at crosswalks, lowering the speed limit, and expand the school zone,” said Lewis.

While Lewis is the only city council member that voted no, he confirmed in a follow-up interview that he has personal experience with driving on Day Miar. Lewis is a member of the worship band at The Church at Rush Creek, the very same church that’s right across the street from Lake Ridge where the September 6th accident occurred. Lewis still claims that, despite his own experience on Day Miar, he still doesn’t believe approving the improvement plan for Day Miar would improve the safety of the road.

 “I don’t think that widening the road makes it safer. The sidewalk improvements that they proposed would not have prevented the incident that happened,” said Lewis.

Despite how Lewis voted on the Capital Improvement plan, it still passed and is going to be implemented. However, according to David Boski, this project is still a year away from even beginning. However that doesn’t mean changes still can’t be made. Boski claims the city is currently working with MISD to hire a crossing guard for the crosswalk that exists today. It is unclear when or how this will happen.

”We’re going to be working with MISD police to come up with various options out there. We may be putting a crossing guard at the location where the pedestrian crossing is today,” said Boski.

The required intricacies to approve and implement such an extreme project makes it difficult for these changes to be streamlined to protect students today, due to the fine details of plotting funding, and the fact that not everyone agrees on what the changes should specifically be. While the city continues to go through their processes, students are still at risk of being struck by cars, despite the immediate improvements the city made to the school zone. Even though the city says they support fixing the roadway, the burden still rests on the shoulders of Lake Ridge students, as they will have to continue to be extra vigilant when they cross the street.

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