HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Hillsborough County Public Works are making operational improvements to enhance safety after families at Farnell Middle School spoke up.
Effective by the end of the day Friday, the intersection of Countryway and Race Track will have a fie second leading pedestrian delay, meaning a light will not turn from red to green until five seconds passes, allowing the pedestrian extra time to start movement.
Over the summer, the county will also be installing blank out signs, illuminated signs with a right arrow crossed out to indicate no turn on red. These will be on before and after school for both Mary Bryant Elementary and Farnell Middle.
The families were pushing for change after they said a child was hit crossing the road coming from school.
Lauren Hawkins has a son who attends Farnell Middle School and said there are several hazards kids are facing as they walk to and from school.
Hawkins said there is a major issue with speeding and congestion near Countryway Boulevard and Race Track Road, very near where the child was hit. The designated speed there is 45 miles per hour, she said.
The biggest issues she said she sees are a lack of designated school zones and no crossing guards.
There's also issues with the school pick-up procedure, according to Hawkins.
Farnell Middle School is tucked behind a shopping mall with an access road and only one sidewalk, she said.
The kids are pouring onto the non-sidewalk side into the mall parking lot, Hawkins said. She believes they are vulnerable to getting hit there.
"Buses and parents are battling for that entrance and that exit," Hawkins said.
There is a limited area for pick up and drop off on the road into the school, so there is no alternative, Hawkins said. She said this is a huge shortcut for kids on foot so they are going to cut across a busy mall lot.
Hawkins said the number of kids walking and biking has only grown since Hillsborough County cut courtesy busing for children who live within two miles of the school last year.
"That congestion is double this year. So what's happening is we have to come up with a system, a way of picking up our kids without staying in that parent pickup line," Hawkins said.
Hawkins says she has reported this to the county and will be speaking to the school board soon about it. She would like to see the sidewalk out of the school extended as well as crossing guards or a sheriff's office presence.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office tells us they only put crossing guards at elementary schools, and this is not something they plan to change.
A representative from the county tells us they sent a representative out this week to check on the designated school zones, and they say there is one. They also found that the crosswalk signals are functioning properly at the Countryway/Racetrack intersection.