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Creating A Safer Crossing

Barbara Hyne was selected as the McKenzie Valley's "Woman of the Year" in January of 1999.

Barbara Hyne came to this area as Barbara Peden when a very young girl. She lived in several local communities, including Nimrod and Leaburg, where her father, Chet Peden, ran the garage.

As an adult, she served as president of both the Lane County and McKenzie River Home extension groups. That was in addition to participating in the Presbyterian Church choir, heading up ceramic classes, and specializing in teaching youngsters from six to twelve to play the piano.

Although she modestly declined to hold office when the Deerhorn Neighborhood Watch was formed, Barbara volunteered with her usual enthusiasm when the incumbent president resigned. It was around that time she began to focus her efforts on a public safety project that she again took little credit for but wouldn't have come about without her efforts.

School crossing decision coming soon

From the February 24, 1999 edition of River Reflections

SALEM: Most people drive an average of 54 mph as they pass by the Walterville Elementary School.

Willard Bradshaw, Oregon Department of Transportation traffic engineer for Region 2, said the data was gathered last Wednesday using a laser radar gun. About 15 percent of the traffic was traveling faster than that speed.

For a 55 mph road like the McKenzie Highway, the numbers aren't out of line. "That tells me that the basic rule of speed is being complied with quite well," Bradshaw said. "In normal 55 mph facilities, the average pushes 60 mph."

When students were getting on or off school buses, the average dropped to 46 mph, well above the warnings on signs advising motorists to drop down to 20 mph "When children are present."

Getting people to slow down has been the goal of several hundred people who sent petitions to ODOT in December of last year. Some of their suggestions included establishing a 45 mph zone in front of the school, attaching flashing lights to the existing signs or adding a timed flasher to alert motorists when a speed reduction is actually warranted.

Enforcing the 20 mph zone hasn't been high on the list of law enforcement officials. There's quite a bit of confusion about how the "When children are present" message should be interpreted.

"With the Walterville School you've got students standing way back from the highway," notes Sergeant James Rentz of the Oregon State Police patrol office in Springfield. "My thinking is a blinking light might be nice for strangers so they'll realize they're entering a school zone. But it's not so good for people who know where the school is. After time they'll become familiar with the flashing lights. Some schools, like Bethel, can turn on the lights and that seems to work."

Bradshaw said ODOT is now asking the Springfield School District to make a recommendation on which option to support. The district's suggestions will be passed on for review by the state traffic engineer. At that level "they have to deal with statewide issues," Bradshaw said. "We'll remind them that the basic rule is being complied with and that there is a left turn refuge. Then there's the question of 'Are we going to have a rear-end (accident) problem?' There is that reduction in speed of about 30 mph."

ODOT to slow traffic at elementary school

From the May 19, 1999 edition of River Reflections

WALTERVILLE: The Oregon Department of Transportation has agreed to meet the state police halfway in their request for a speed zone change in front of the Walterville Elementary School. Instead of the 45 mph zone that was asked for ODOT has agreed to placing 50 mph signs along Hwy. 126.

Kathy McConnell, a traffic analyst with ODOT's regional office, said her on-site visit earlier this year determined that 54% of the traffic passing by the school was traveling at 54 mph. Although there were concerns about students' safety, McConnell said "I found out all the children are bused or transported by parents in cars. There are no children walking home from school, on, or across the street at all."

McConnell did support a proposal to install flashing lights on the highway that would require drivers to drop down to 20 mph when they're activated.

That pleases Barbara Hyne, a Deerhorn resident who's been pushing for the lights. Hyne collected over 800 signatures on a petition sent to ODOT. She now plans to forward them to the Springfield School District.

Assistant Springfield Schools Superintendent Steve Barrett said he's heard estimates as high as $20,000 for the lights. "We flat don't have the money," Barrett said. "We're six weeks away from the end of the budget year and I'm scraping right now."

It now appears parents and the Walterville Boosters will be called on to help out with fundraisers to fund the installation of the flashers. Barrett said most people don't realize it but ODOT isn't the one who pays those costs. It's possible, though, that the initial estimate could be quite high. An earlier study for a flashing light near the Walterville fire station came in around $8,000.

Lights ready to flash at Walterville School Zone

From the November 17, 1999 edition of River Reflections

WALTERVILLE: Lewis Palazzolo from the Oregon Dept. of Transportation was on the job Friday, putting the finishing touches on new flashing lights that have been added to the 20 mph School Zone in front of Walterville Elementary.

The lights were expected to be activated on November 15th, alerting drivers to slow down when students are outside in the area. A dedication ceremony at the school is planned for 1 pm, this Friday, in the library.

"Light Lady" honored at Walterville

From the November 124 1999 edition of River Reflections

WALTERVILLE: "We're a safer place now," noted Walterville Elementary School Principal Jim Fanning. Speaking at last Friday's dedication of the school zone's flashing lights, Fanning had praise for the people who worked to make a dream come true. "It was a reflection of the community coming together, to be heard and to rally around leadership," he said. "It provided a real sense of community and a realization of what communities are for. Our chief responsibility is educating our children and making sure they grow up safe. This project represents those two aspects very well."

Barbara Hyne, the project's chief organizer, and fundraiser had a few things to say as well.

"Everybody has asked me why I did this. It was because I lived up here, I was raised on the McKenzie. The traffic has grown so heavy over the years that when I would come through here and start slowing down, I was afraid if I had to slam on my brakes someone would hit me.

I remember my Mom always saying 'If you don't like something, don't talk about it, do something.' So I did."

After gathering up close to 700 signatures on petitions supporting the flashing lights, she also hit the phones, generating $9,700 in donations. Thanks to a work crew from EWEB that installed the lights, some money was left over. That, Hyne said, will now go to the school's Booster Club for safety-related equipment.

"I just hope now the kids feel a little safer out there," Hyne says.

 

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