Johnston Ave. traffic meeting: City eases crossing guard hiring | The Homepage
No further traffic calming until spring, Gainey administration says.
By Juliet Martinez
Residents of Glen Hazel made impassioned pleas for traffic calming measures on Johnston Avenue at the October 5 meeting with Mayor Ed Gainey. Although the city did not promise to speed up the work, it did remove barriers keeping volunteer crossing guards from being hired.
Family and friends of 6-year-old Jamel Austin, who died after being hit by a car while riding his bike on Johnston Avenue on July 26, joined a packed crowd in the Glen Hazel community center for the evening meeting.
Since Jamel’s death, his grandmother Dashieba Wilder and other community members have volunteered as crossing guards to stop traffic when children are in the street. Ms. Wilder said she applied for a position as a crossing guard, but did not have a class C driver’s license, a job requirement.
Crossing guard supervisor, Donna McManus, told the meeting that staffing is low, which is why there is no crossing guard stationed on Johnston. She promised to investigate removing that requirement.
I emailed Ms. McManus to ask when residents could expect to have this requirement dropped. She replied on October 7 that it was done. She also clarified that crossing guards are exempt from taking the civil service test.
But the city did not budge on the spring 2023 timeline for installing speed humps on Johnston Avenue.
Mike Maloch, municipal traffic engineer, outlined the steps already taken such as repainted crosswalks, “slow curve” arrows to warn motorists about sharp curves and transverse painted strips on a stretch near Browns Hill Road. He said painted bump-outs, which create a highly visible no-parking zone near crosswalks, both visually narrow the roadway and make crosswalks safer.
Mr. Maloch said the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure will install new 25-mile-an-hour speed limit signs this year. Residents have asked for the speed limit to be lowered to 15 miles per hour, but Mr. Maloch said state law does not allow that, except in school zones.
He said speed humps for Johnston Avenue still need to be designed and engineered, but he will return in 2023 for community input.
“This is a project that is on the top of my list,” he said. “When the weather breaks in 2023, it will be implemented quickly.”
The Propel Safe Routes to School project for Mansion and Glenwood streets should be funded in the 2023-2024 budget, he said.
James Cole, who runs the Hazelwood Cobras football program at Burgwin Field and the afterschool program at Burgwin Park, noted that Homewood is set to get speed humps this year. DOMI officials at the meeting confirmed it.
“If you can install speed bumps in Homewood in the next couple of weeks, I think you can push forward and get these speed bumps sooner than next year,” he said, standing surrounded by 20 young players in their football uniforms. When he asked how many of them had close calls with speeding cars on Mansion and Johnston streets, most raised their hands.
Mr. Cole said a lot of children travel along Johnston Avenue between Propel School on Mansion Street and the Glen Hazel recreation center where the meeting happened.
“Our kids are just as important as kids in Homewood," he said.
On October 20, the Gainey administration released a statement committing to make Glen Hazel safer.
“The commitments include removing barriers to employment for crossing guards, investments in traffic calming infrastructure, and ensuring proper lighting outside of the Glen Hazel recreation center,” the statement read.
“Creating safe neighborhoods across our city is a top priority for my Administration,” the statement from Mayor Gainey's office said. “I am pleased to announce these improvements and look forward to continuing to work with residents of Glen Hazel to ensure that we address their concerns.”
Juliet Martinez is managing editor of The Homepage.