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Grifton School asks DOT for improvements on Dawson Road

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By Amber Revels-Stocks
The Times-Leader

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

GRIFTON — Grifton School will ask the N.C. Department of Transportation for improvements on Dawson Road from Church Street to Wall Street to increase student and parent safety during pick-up and drop-off times.

Kevin Smith, the principal of Grifton School, and Chief Brian Silva of Grifton Police Department spoke at the May 1 Grifton Board of Commissioners about the proposed improvements.

“Parents will park on Dawson in the afternoon to pick up their children and cross the street with them,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of traffic on that road. We want to make sure oncoming traffic is going slow enough.”

Silva said his department has received multiple complaints of near misses as families cross the street.

Complicating the situation is the fact that drop offs and pick ups take place on both sides of the school, according to Smith. In addition, many of Grifton School’s students live in the neighborhood and walk to school.

“As a parent, it is difficult. (Drivers) do fly through there,” said Commissioner Will Barnes. “When you come out, you literally just start to back up and keep your fingers crossed somebody isn’t about to (rip) your back end off.”

Silva said the speed limit in the area is 25 mph, “but (drivers) run 35 mph through there.”

Smith and Silva recommended dropping the speed limit to 20 mph, putting in speed bumps and looking into whether commercial vehicles could be prohibited on that stretch of road during drop-off and pick-up times.

There is a crosswalk at the intersection of Dawson Road and Church Street and Barnes asked if it would be possible to put in a second crossing spot.

Grifton Mayor Billy Ray Jackson said crosswalks can be useful if drivers are paying attention.

“But if we could put a speed bump in there, I know that would slow it up some more,” Jackson said. “I think it would do more than what signage could do.”

Smith and Silva agreed.

“In our conversations, we really think (speed bumps) would really help to slow it down there for the safety of our students,” Smith said.

Commissioner Mary Grace Bright asked if there was a way to keep students from leaving school that way since Dawson Road had been a problem for years.

“There’s not an easy solution,” Smith said. “We’ve tried to control (pick ups and drop offs) as much as possible.”

The district will be putting in gates and “No Trespassing” signs to keep people from cutting through the school’s campus, Smith said, adding he and Silva do not think it will affect the number of students crossing the street, especially since special events — such as basketball games — are held closer to Dawson Road.

“This morning when I dropped my granddaughter off, I thought it was great to see an officer on Church Street,” said Commissioner Raymond Oakes. “I wonder if you did something like that over on Dawson if that would get (drivers’) attention and slow them down a little bit when they come in.”

“The only downside is we only have one officer and one car working at that time,” Silva said.

Bright asked if a flashing school zone light would be an option.

“The school is interested in doing anything to help with traffic calming,” Smith said.

“(Dawson Road) is a state (maintained) road. We’ll support you as much as possible,” Jackson said.

Bright recommended Smith and Silva talk to Jeff Cavendish of NCDOT.

“He’s been very responsive when we’ve had safety concerns,” she said. “He was instrumental in getting (the existing crosswalk) there.”

Smith, Silva and Grifton Manager Joe Johnson plan to meet with NCDOT representatives in the near future to discuss the proposed improvements. The board also directed Johnson to look into what the town can do to improve safety on the street without state approval.

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