The flowers have dried up and the balloons have lost their air. But the message is still clear at the busy intersection of Sugar Creek Road and Eastway Drive where a Garinger High School senior died on March 14.
Spelled out on the bottom of plastic cups jammed in a chain-link fence are the words, "We [heart] you Britt!" It's the spot where Brittany Palmer was hit by a car and eventually died. She was the second student hit at the intersection in the last year; a boy was hit by a vehicle in March 2011 but survived.
The Palmer accident has stirred parents and politicians to raise awareness about the dangers of the pedestrian-unfriendly intersection that throngs of students cross every day before and after school. City officials say they're improving safety at the intersection, but parents are reluctant to believe change — promised long before Palmer's death — is actually coming.
Members of the Eastside Political Action Committee stood outside of Palmer's memorial the weekend of March 23, waving signs to drivers at the busy intersection.
"Hopefully we won't have to do this too many more times," said Darrell Bonapart, a committee leader and the rally's organizer.
Bonapart said city and Garinger administrators shrugged aside concerns parents raised after the boy's March 2011 accident.
"[Administrators] were trying to blame the businesses up and down [Eastway] instead of taking responsibility," Bonapart said. "It has nothing to do with the businesses."
Linda Durrett, a spokeswoman for Charlotte Department of Transportation, said plans to redesign the intersection, including implementing a crosswalk, were set to begin this year regardless of Palmer's death.
Construction plans must first be drawn up by engineers, who began assessing the site during the last week of March, Durrett said. Town-hall meetings will follow, and construction will take two to four years to complete. Because both Sugar Creek and Eastway are state roads, CDOT will be working in collaboration with the N.C. Department of Transportation. Garinger would not comment on this story.
As Bonapart stood at the intersection holding signs, he explained his distrust for rumors and news reports. "They ran a story on News14 last night saying that [the crosswalk plan] is done. Nothing is done."
He said he wants to make sure the community stays on top of the project until it is seen through. "[The city] figures that if they use the media to say that it's all finished, then people will say, 'Why should we protest? It's finished.' Nothing is finished."
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