Erin Schmidt, ESchmidt@ExplorerNews.com
Dec. 14, 2005 - Orange Grove Middle School students will be crossing the street next fall with more than a crossing guard, thanks to a concerned parent.
A High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk, or HAWK, will be constructed at the intersection of Orange Grove Road and Camino La Zorrela.
The signaling system is used at marked crosswalks. It is a combination of a flasher and a traffic control signal. The lights turn on when activated by a pedestrian.
Diane Ventura-Goodyear is the force behind the HAWK installation near the school. She has been riding her bicycle in the area for years and has noticed the increased amount of traffic on Orange Grove Road.
"I will tell you, it gets very busy there, to the tune of not being able to cross the street," she said.
Ventura-Goodyear has two children who are enrolled at Orange Grove Middle School.
"If they needed to cross the street, any other time than when the guard is there, I wouldn't recommend it," Ventura-Goodyear said. "As a mom, I wouldn't want my son crossing that street."
The average age of students crossing the street from the school is 11 to 14, she said.
Crossing guards are provided before and after school - any other times, crossers have to fend for themselves.
Orange Grove Road has become a popular selection for cross-town motorists traveling east and west. Many drivers are looking to avoid the congestion of Skyline Drive or River Road, and choose Orange Grove Road to get to their destination. That selection is causing more traffic on a road that is generally two lanes.
As the intersections of North Campbell Avenue and East Skyline Drive fill up, traffic will likely continue to increase.
"People are coming off (Skyline Drive) at tremendous amounts of speed," she said. "That scares me."
Ventura-Goodyear turned to her computer and started sending out e-mails to everyone she knew.
"I'm really concerned about the Orange Grove crossing," she wrote. "It's just really getting out of control, and I'm fearful that someone is going to get injured."
Pima County Supervisor Ann Day responded to her e-mailed concerns and ordered a traffic inspection of the area.
Day also picked up the telephone and called her daughter, who has a student at Orange Grove Middle School.
She too said the area has seen an increase in traffic and it was beginning to be unsafe for pedestrians.
"People drive way too fast," Day said. "It was definitely a problem area."
Phil Woodall, Principal of Orange Grove Middle School, has seen cars travel well above the posted 45 mph speed limit many times.
Most drivers see the posted speed limit and travel at least 10 miles per hour over that, Woodall said.
It is a potentially dangerous area, especially with students constantly coming and going.
Camino La Zorrela enters Orange Grove Road on a curve, making the set-back school hard to spot from the road.
"La Zorrela enters Orange Grove Road in such a way that approaching the crosswalk from the west on Orange Grove Road is very dangerous," Woodall wrote in an e-mail interview. "You don't see the crosswalk until you are on top of it."
The new crossing system will be constructed in time for the beginning of the 2006 school year.
An average HAWK system costs $100,000 to install, with operational costs of about $2,000 per year.
No matter the costs, Ventura-Goodyear knows the crossing system will save lives.
"My fear was that someone was going to be killed," she said. "It's a start."