Carlo Bernarte hopes a new guardrail in front of his home might stop cars from plowing into his front yard.
Since Bernarte bought his home at the corner of Fawn Glen and North New Hope Road, six vehicles have landed in his front yard and four people have died in crashes. No one inside the house has been injured, but Bernarte, 45, is scared for the safety of his wife and three children.
At a public meeting held Thursday at New Hope Baptist Church, officials from the state Department of Transportation and the City of Raleigh explained how they tried a variety of methods to keep drivers on the road, but nothing has worked. A proposal to close the road and install a guardrail got mixed reviews from neighbors who worried that it would increase commute times, slow emergency response times and hurt property values.
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“I would like to keep it open if possible, but I think the main thing is we need to fix this for this family,” said Sybil Talbert, who lives down the street from Bernarte.
The decision to close city-maintained Fawn Glen Drive would block off an entrance to the Brookstone neighborhood, which sits at the end of a curve in North New Hope Road that is under state control.
Solutions that keep Fawn Glen open are just not feasible, said John Sandor, a deputy division traffic engineer with the DOT. Putting a guardrail on each side of the road would limit visibility, and a guardrail in front of Bernarte’s home wouldn’t repel a head-on impact.
“This option is really the only one with good certainty that it will do a successful job with run-off-the-road crashes,” Sandor said.
Since 2002, 20 crashes have occurred at the intersection of North New Hope and Fawn Glen, and all but three involved alcohol or excessive speed, officials said. In the past two years, more than 100 people have been charged with drunken driving within a half-mile of Bernarte’s home, Raleigh Police Department Deputy Chief J.C. Perry told the crowd.
In the most recent wreck, on Aug. 13, a driver going 60 mph – who was cited for driving while impaired and without a license – crashed through a stone fence marking the subdivision’s entrance, spraying rocks and debris into the siding of Bernarte’s house and shattering some of the home’s window panes.
The crashes have taken a toll on Bernarte’s family, which spends many weekends sleeping together in a back bedroom or staying with relatives. During the meeting Thursday Bernarte’s son Carl said he was living in constant fear of the next car hitting his home.
“It’s hard to sleep at night, because I don’t know what’s going to happen,” the seventh-grader said.
The DOT will likely request the roughly $100,000 in state funds Nov. 7, and officials will find out whether the project is funded by the middle of the month, Sandor said. Once the project is funded, the department could have contractors install the guardrail, and extend a curb and sidewalk across Fawn Glen within several months.
Chris Redshaw, who created an online petition on change.org, asking the city to buy the house, spoke at the meeting on Thursday pleading with the DOT to help relocate the family.
“Tomorrow night could be number seven, and nobody can guarantee what will happen with number seven,” she said.
Officials told the audience that there was no legal way to buy the house, because it is not in the path of a road construction project.
Bernarte, who immigrated to the United States from the Philippines in 2000, said he was hopeful that the guardrail will keep him and his family safer. But, he said, he is still on edge every day that his home remains unprotected.
“Hopefully things will get done this time, because that’s our problem,” he said. There’s always that uncertainty.”
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi