Girl Scout brings in new crosswalk after school had been trying for a decade

A girl scout helped lobby for a new traffic halting crosswalk near a southwest Austin middle school. (Photo: CBS Austin)

A girl scout helped accomplish what one Austin school has been trying to get done for more than a decade.

Hill Country Middle school students have been using a new, signalized, traffic halting crosswalk to walk home. That only came with the help of a girl scout troop.

“There’s a lot of cars just like rocketing past so sometimes they just have to wait awhile until there’s a gap in traffic,” middle school student Renee Lofye said.

Lofye said that’s what she saw before the city installed this pedestrian hybrid beacon. Before they just had a crossing guard, but school officials said traffic typically ignored the guards.

“The trouble is that people don’t always stop and so it’s very very dangerous,” Hill Country principal Kathleen Sullivan.

So in 2015 when council member Ellen Troxclair asked Lofye’s girl scout troop what kind of transportation improvements they’d like to see, Lofye knew her answer.

Then Lofye took it on herself to speak with local officials and write letters to lobby for her crosswalk. With the help of Troxclair finding $75,000 in unallocated money, she got her crosswalk.

“This is one of the most rewarding parts of being a council member,” Troxclair said.

“Now everyone can like just cross the street safer,” Lofye said.

Not everyone who requests a pedestrian hybrid beacon is so lucky. The Austin Transportation Department said each “PHB” costs at minimum $100,000.

There are currently 14 recommended locations for a PHB that are still waiting for funding. That’s not including the more than 120 locations on a priority list. To access that list, click here.

One of those 14 locations is at Red River St and Harris Ave.

“I see people cross the street here all the time,” UT student Sam Schelfhout said.

Students commonly illegally cross four lanes of traffic to get from apartments to a bus stop. That’s because the closest crosswalk is nearly a quarter mile away.

“There’s no crosswalk, so you usually just have to look both ways and hope there’s nobody coming and if there is you have to hope you have to run fast enough,” UT student Nabeel Naiyer said.

It does take more than eight minutes to walk to a crosswalk and get to the bus stop instead of crossing the street. Naiyer said that could be enough time to miss the bus and be late.

“There’s limited taxpayer dollars and we have to be good stewards of them,” Troxclair said.

Troxclair said she gets a lot of requests for new crosswalks, and she says finding funds for new ones is important.

The $720 million transportation bond is paying for multiple new PHB’s in the coming years. The city also budgets several in over the year.

However, after more than 12 years of trying Sullivan still couldn’t get her PHB. She said they had two separate studies, but there just wasn’t funding.

Finally, it took the calls of small, but powerful voices to bring change.

“Here we adults had been trying for several different years and along comes this group of girls,” Sullivan said.

“Shows you that kids voices are worth listening to,” she said.

Lofye said their next project is a clothing drive for women in need.

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