Originally created 01/14/02

Safe Passage

NORTH AUGUSTA - Most of the time, red means stop. Teachers at Our Lady of Peace School have learned otherwise.

The school has a divided campus with buildings on both sides of LeCompte Avenue. At least three times a day, teachers stand in the middle of LeCompte, hold red stop signs in the air and usher an average of 120 pupils across the road, Principal Carol Roach said.

That doesn't always stop traffic, though.

"Sometimes people get a little impatient," Ms. Roach said. "There's no telling if they're going to stop or not."

It's not uncommon, she said, for cars to drive so closely past teachers that they feel a breeze on their ankles.

The problem could get a lot worse. A 46-acre shopping center with more than 300,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space is moving next door. One of its secondary entrances will incorporate what is currently Our Lady of Peace's driveway, located several feet from the school's crosswalk on LeCompte.

According to a recent traffic study, the shopping center will bring a significant increase of traffic to LeCompte during peak morning and afternoon hours.

The state Department of Transportation said it would study the pedestrian crossing if asked. North Augusta City Manager Charles Martin said a request made by the city, the developer and the school has been submitted to DOT.

"We'd get to it as soon as we possibly can," said Tony Sheppard, DOT's district traffic engineer for North Augusta. "We have to do research on it to see what's taking place out there. Not knowing what may come up, I don't want to get tied down with specifics."

Wyatt Realty Services, the shopping center developer, has committed up to $28,000 to help finance a solution to the traffic concern.

There are no speed limit signs on the road, though Ms. Roach says she thinks the speed limit is 25 mph. There are school zone signs, and a painted crosswalk on LeCompte's pavement.

"We don't want the development not to happen," Ms. Roach said. "What we are looking for is a way to make our students safe."

Teachers say they'd like to see at least a blinking yellow light, but would be happy to see a light that would stop traffic when pupils cross LeCompte.

"A lot of times (cars) don't stop until they're right at the crossing," said Andrea Gordon, the assistant principal.

DOT said it does not install stop lights in school zones. Typically, officials said, blinking warning lights and school zone signs are installed. School speed zones are reduced by 15 mph, and don't go any lower than 25 mph.

School zones that are patrolled regularly by law enforcement tend to have fewer speeders, a DOT official said.

"We don't want the development not to happen. What we are looking for is a way to make our students safe." - Carol Roach, principal of Our Lady of Peace School

Reach Josh Gelinas at (803) 279-6895 or josh.gelinas@augustachronicle.com.


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