Denton County

Denton Leaders Want Fix Now for Dangerous Road by Ryan High

Leaders in Denton want something done before the next school year to fix a road where multiple students have been injured while walking in recent years.

On Tuesday the City Council and Denton Independent School District School Board met for a rare joint meeting, where the issues along McKinney Street were among the top topics.

The group heard from members of the district and the Denton County Transportation Authority who have been surveying families in the area to come up with a solution to the pedestrian safety concerns on the stretch.

In recent years two students have been injured walking along McKinney Street from Ryan High School where there are no sidewalks on much of the stretch, little shoulder space, steep ditches and often heavy traffic traveling 30 to 45 miles per hour.

Just last month, Guyer High School student Corey West was killed on the stretch while trying to cross at Loop 288.

City Councilman Greg Johnson said they have been working with the Texas Department of Transportation to get authority over that part of the state highway turned over to Denton so that they can get a widening project and safety upgrades started sooner, but with this most recent death, he and other council members said they can't wait any longer.

"Sometimes you've just got to say, we're going to get the right people in the room and we're going to figure out a way to make it happen instead of talking about the reasons it can't happen," said Johnson.

In the survey by DCTA and the Denton ISD, they found about 247 students fall in the zone that's too close to ride a bus to the school and have to find alternate transportation or walk. It also found that more than 60 percent of that group qualifies for the free or reduced lunch program, so cost of getting to school on their own could also be a factor.

The school district does get some state funding to bus students who live too close to school to normally qualify but are in areas deemed hazardous to walk. However, district leaders said they only get about $60,000 for that and the money is prioritized for the youngest students first.

Additionally, the district is already going beyond that amount and using large amounts of their own funding to cover busing in other hazardous areas.

DCTA does have a bus route that covers that area and is working with the district and city to potentially bus those students, but again, it comes down to cost.

While crunching the numbers in the meeting, council members found it would be cheaper to subsidize bus passes for the affected students than to build a temporary sidewalk while McKinney Street awaits repair. Additionally, many observed it would be safer to have those students on a bus while the roughly three-and-a-half to four-and-a-half year-long construction takes place.

Whatever the solution is, council members asked staff Tuesday to get something in place before the fall semester.

"This is kind of an emergency situation," noted Councilman Joey Hawkins.

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