Parents call for safety upgrades at Holly Springs intersection

aspecht@newsobserver.comJanuary 30, 2014 

— A group of parents wants to raise awareness and improve pedestrian safety at Cass Holt Road and Avent Ferry Road, an intersection often used by students of nearby Holly Grove elementary and middle schools.

The intersection is in the path of northbound commuters traveling on Avent Ferry Road to the N.C. 55 bypass, as well as students headed to Holly Springs High School, less than a mile away on Cass Holt Road.

There’s a traffic light and a pedestrian push-button that shows when it’s safe to cross the intersection.

Even so, some people say many drivers fail to yield to pedestrians – especially drivers trying to turn right onto Avent Ferry Road from Cass Holt Road.

Brooke Grant said a driver was inches away from hitting her 3-year-old son as she led him across the street in a wagon.

“This is terrifying as a mother,” Grant said. “I’ve had to stop in the middle of the road because motorists are continuously taking that right turn.”

Grant was among three mothers who live in the Overlook at Holly Glen subdivision who spoke to the Holly Springs Town Council on Jan. 21 about the crosswalk.

Claire Lindsay said she used to walk her daughter to school but recently decided to send her on a bus because “we got tired of feeling like we were putting our lives at risk.”

Jessica Perry, who said her family has had “too many close encounters to count,” came to the council with a list of requests.

The parents want to ban right turns onto Avent Ferry from Cass Holt during school-zone hours.

They want pedestrians to have more than 10 to 12 seconds to cross the street, which is currently what the crosswalk sign allows.

They want a sign reminding drivers that it’s against the law to enter a crosswalk before a pedestrian has walked all the way across, and they want more signs indicating the crosswalk and the school-zone speed limit, which is 25 mph.

Many of the drivers turning right onto Avent Ferry from Cass Holt aren’t aware of the speed-limit change because there’s no sign, Perry said.

“There should be flashing lights … anything to really impact those drivers,” she said.

Holly Springs Town Council members said they liked the group’s ideas and are willing to work with the parents.

But installing new signs, tweaking the traffic light timers and banning right turns are easier said than done. The state Department of Transportation, not the town of Holly Springs, maintains that part of Avent Ferry Road.

The state’s willingness to make changes in the area remains unclear.

“All of those suggestions you put out are excellent things,” Councilman Tim Sack said. “I think we can do something with those – it’s nothing really hard. I don’t want to speak for N.C. DOT, though.”

Mayor Dick Sears asked the parents to send him a formal email explaining the problems at the intersection and detailing their requests. Sears will then show the email to DOT officials at a meeting that’s yet to be scheduled.

“We’re gonna do everything we can to make it safer,” Sears said. “In the meantime, we need to continue to remind people to slow down and yield to pedestrians.”

Sears often ends Town Council meetings with a story about how a Holly Springs police officer once had to stop traffic on Main Street in front of Town Hall because no drivers would yield for a jogger who wanted to cross the street.

His story always ends with a plea to drivers: Slow down and yield to pedestrians.

Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht

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