By Barbara Van Reed
Two weeks ago on a dark, rainy, evening the day after Superstorm Sandy blew through town, a Worcester mother of three was hit and killed by a driver on Lake Parkway in Webster.
The cause of the accident is under investigation by the Central Massachusetts Enforcement Council Accident Reconstruction Unit and the Worcester district attorney's office. Webster Deputy Police Chief Rodney Budrow told us that it could take several weeks to get the results of the investigation. That will tell us exactly what happened, he said, and determine whether the driver was speeding or not.
Jillian (Gatsogiannis) Peters, who lives just up Lake Parkway on Klebart Avenue, has been vocal on the subject of safety on that street for more than a year, and she feels especially sad, and angry, about what happened. She had talked with the police chief, town administrator, school administrators, and others to voice her fears about the traffic issues, particularly speeding, on Lake Parkway.
She also spoke with us earlier this year (January 25 issue) about slowing speeders on Lake Parkway, the possibility of blinking school zone signs, and other ways to make the street safer for kids and other pedestrians. Her specific words at the time were that they could “get nailed by someone driving a car.”
And now someone has been. And Ms. Peters is making the rounds again, speaking with Deputy Police Chief Rodney Budrow, Town Administrator McAuliffe, and this newspaper.
“I understand where she's coming from,” said Chief Budrow, calling the accident a tragedy. “I feel for her, though I don't always agree with her.” He explained that the street does not have a lot of foot traffic, so doesn't warrant a crosswalk. The department has done radar there for hours, and people don't cross the street, he said. Also, there are wide gravel paths that people walk along, well off the street. A school zone sign would not help when school is out.
There is a 30 mph speed sign posted, even though Lake Parkway is not a thickly settled area, so it could theoretically be raised to 40 mph. Ms. Peters argues that the road is so wide that drivers feel free to go much faster than the speed limit. Deputy Chief Budrow emphasized that it has not been determined that speed was a factor in the accident. In any case, Police Chief Timothy Bent pointed out that Lake Parkway is one of the most heavily radar- patrolled streets in Webster. “We have the speed trailer up there often,” he said. The highway department has now put some “children slow” signs up too.
But Ms. Peters won't be quieted - this time she also expressed her concerns to a broader audience, readers of the Webster Residents Forum Facebook page. And there she found both sympathetic and unsympathetic listeners, and quite a bit of advice and suggestions about how take the matter up with various town boards and committees.
Finally she said, “I feel like I'm getting the runaround even though now I'm trying to do things properly.”
She went to change.org and started an online petition called “Town of Webster, MA, Board of Selectmen: Improve safety in town school zones.” She circulated it in her neighborhood as well, and by Friday had more than forty signatures on the two petitions.
On Friday she met with Town Administrator John McAuliffe again and he helped her work out a two- part strategy. He suggested a letter to all the applicable boards and committees asking to be put on the agenda and show them the petitions. If that fails to satisfy, he outlined her options for getting a citizen's petition on the warrant for a town meeting.
Ms. Peters got right to work and wrote the following letter to the Webster Board of Selectmen, the School Committee, the Public Safety Committee, and the Highway Department.
“I, Jillian Peters, as a citizen of the Town of Webster, MA, formally request the assessment and improvement of Webster school zones be put on your agenda at your next meeting. I feel with the recent death on Lake Parkway now is the time to address these issues. Our children walk to school on this road with no sidewalks. They also have no crosswalks to access the side of the road the school is on. The address to one of these schools is Bartlett Junior Senior High School, 52 Lake Parkway. With the school being on Lake Parkway, which should be a school zone, we are in need of a reduced speed zone at the entrance of the school accompanied by flashing beacon lights that flash during school hours to alert commuters. Cars typically speed through this area at 35 mph or more. The schools need clearly marked school zones with speed enforcement in these zones. I feel it is time for these school zones to be brought up-to-date to accommodate and meet the needs of the students' and residents' safety.”
She concluded, “It's time to find out whose job this is.”
- Thursday, 15 November 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Letter From the Editor