These Fort Worth students were tired of crossing a busy street. So they found a solution

In the not to distant future, those traveling in the 7000 block of West Camp Bowie Boulevard will drive past some $400,000 in traffic enhancements courtesy of grant dollars and a determined group of middle-school students who just wanted a crosswalk.

“I‘m really excited because I didn‘t think we could do it,” said Avery Hand, a seventh-grade student. “I‘m excited that it is happening and it is because of us.”

The shares a campus with the International Newcomer Academy and the schools‘ 1,000-plus students are surrounded by busy four-lane roads that do not require drivers to slow down.

“A thousand kids is a lot of kids,” said Alexandra Checka, an English teacher at the academy whose students worked on the traffic safety project. “It‘s like we don‘t exist. We don‘t have a school zone.”

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The nearest open green space available to students is , which is north of the campus at 6950 West Camp Bowie. Students said they use the park for school clubs and some classes.

But crossing to the park can be dangerous because there is no crosswalk.

‘No stopping them‘

Eleven students at the Applied Learning Academy decided to do something about, while also getting school credit.

“Once they decided it was going to be an applied learning project that they were going to take on for real, there was no stopping them,” Checka said.

Last school year, Checka‘s students began investigating how to get a crosswalk installed near their school.

They turned to the which has a grant program — called the — that focuses on safety improvements for area schools.

Among research studied was crash data from 2012 through 2016 that showed traffic accidents nearby, including a pedestrian fatality and a bike-related fatality.

Karla Weaver, senior program manager with NCTCOG, said others involved in studying the traffic concerns raised by students included the Texas Department of Transportation, Fort Worth school district, city of Fort Worth and Trinity Metro.

‘$400,000 in improvements‘

“Overall, we identified $400,000 worth of improvements,” Weaver said, explaining that improvements to the roads, sidewalks and traffic signals would be paid through grant dollars. NCTCOG will provide $320,000 from the grant and Fort Worth will invest $80,000 for street repairs.

The Safe Routes for Schools program also provided $3.2 million in 2017 in improvements — such as crosswalks, flashing beacons and new signs — for seven Fort Worth elementary schools.

For the Applied Learning Center project, Weaver said a temporary crosswalk will be put in place this spring. Later, work will begin on more permanent improvements that include a high-intensity activated crosswalk that requires vehicles to stop so people can cross the street.

Weaver said the students were eager to make a crosswalk a reality and they got to see how much work is involved.

Asked if the effort may result in a new generation of urban planners, Weaver answered: “I sure hope so.”

Diane Smith, ,