Midtown Raleigh News

New light protects Durant Middle students

Griffin Hill, 14, looked both ways and began a slow jog across all five lanes of Durant Road in North Raleigh.

A passing motorist yelled a safety reminder out the window that caused Hill to redirect his journey into the pedestrian crosswalk at the intersection of Durant and Raven Ridge roads, which is now protected by a traffic light.

“I’m just not used to it yet,” said Hill, a seventh-grader at nearby Durant Road Middle School.

At the next crossing on his journey to a nearby Bojangles restaurant, Hill did stop and wait for the visual and audio cues that it was safe to cross Raven Ridge.

The traffic light at this intersection is new, but the planning for it dates back several years.

In March 2010, 14-year-old Lindsey Fensmire, a student at Durant Road Middle School, was struck by a car and killed as she and a friend left Bojangles and crossed Durant away from the intersection. Her friend, Krista Carcaterra, 14, was injured.

Accident investigators determined that the girls ran in front of the traffic and that a driver in one lane saw them and stopped in time. The driver in the next lane didn’t. No charges were filed.

A safety recommendation to put a traffic light in the intersection was made five years before the deadly accident.

“We had recommended back in 2005 for a traffic signal based on volume at the intersection and looking at crash patterns as well,” said Kelly Becker, DOT regional engineer. “We forwarded it, NCDOT reviewed it and concurred and put it on a spot safety list.”

Projects on the spot safety list compete against other projects across the state for prioritizing and available funding. While the traffic signal is operated by an agreement with the city of Raleigh, Durant is a state roadway, so the signal belongs to the DOT. Becker says the project cost about $100,000.

Kyle Perna, a Durant sixth-grader, was mindful of the new light and the pedestrian crossing signals as he made his way to the parking lot of the fast food restaurant.

“It’s always stopped when I get here,” said Kyle, 12. “And I wait for it.”

The Bojangles is on one corner of the intersection inside the Falls River Town Center shopping area. A service station is on the opposite corner, and a subdivision entrance is across the street. Durant Road Middle School is in the line of sight to the intersection, and students say they sometimes meet their rides home in the shopping center parking lot.

As pedestrians move through the crosswalk and cars stop for the new traffic signal, a safety reminder sits a few feet from the new signal pole: a cross and memorial flowers are dedicated to the memory of Lindsey Fensmire.