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A man fearing for the safety of his kids and neighborhood wishes drivers would...Slow down

By ERICA HALL

Staff writer

J. Warden and his wife and kids live at the very end of First Way Southwest, where the lines on the road disappear and the shoulder swoops in a big S near a deep, blackberry-filled ravine.

There are tall trees growing in a greenbelt near the 4,000-square-foot colonial-style homes. The five families that live on the street have built decorative rock fences and landscaped their yards with tiered, ornamental ground covers in wavy patterns.

It’s quiet, Warden said, and a great place to raise kids, except for one thing.

In the past four years, there have been four or five major collisions brought on by drivers who take the S-curves of the 25-mile-per-hour meandering road at far too great a speed, launching cars through Warden’s fence on numerous occasions and once sending a sports car careening through his small, landscaped front yard, into a boulder and up the street into some trees.

Most recently, six teenagers were out about 8 p.m. in a sports utility vehicle belonging to the father of one of them and “wanted to see what it could do coming around the corner,” Warden said.

According to Warden, one of the kids in the back seat said the last he saw, the speedometer showed 100 miles per hour.

The driver lost control and the vehicle plowed through Warden’s fence, charged over the blackberry brambles and plunged down the ravine, where it came to rest. The impact was so great, some of the boys were knocked out of their shoes, Warden said.

The cushioning from the brambles probably lessened the impact and slowed the SUV down, saving the boys’ lives, Warden said.

Fortunately, none of the boys was injured. But in addition to a portion of Warden’s fence being destroyed and a large swath of brambles being flattened, rescuers had to cut through a portion of a chain link fence on the back edge of his property to winch the vehicle back up the ravine, further flattening the bushes along the ravine bank.

The section of the sidewalk where the SUV lost control, which falls in the middle of the arc of one of the curves, is where Warden’s kids sell lemonade at a little stand in the summer. He has four children, ranging in age from 18 months to 13 years old.

“We’ve been extraordinarily fortunate nobody’s been killed yet,” he said. “The destruction was just phenomenal.”

Warden claimed city traffic safety experts are familiar with the problem, but nobody will do anything about it.

The city has a neighborhood traffic safety program that engineers use to determine whether to add traffic-calming devices — a stop sign, speed bumps, speed tables, a roundabout or island medians.

City officials rate speed, volume, collision history and severity of collisions on a scale of zero to three in .5-point increments. If the total adds up to 3.0 or higher, the neighborhood qualifies for a traffic-calming device.

The city conducts neighborhood meetings to ensure there’s a consensus among all the neighbors, and ballots are then sent to the property owners and residents within 600 feet of the proposed traffic measures, and the residents vote.

If a certain area has six traffic points or more, the balloting process can be bypassed and city instead will develop a proposal for possible City Council approval.

City engineers ultimately told Warden that too few people lived on his street to warrant the expense of installing something, he said.

City traffic engineer Rick Perez didn’t return calls to the Mirror by press time.

“It’s a huge concern from our neighborhood’s standpoint,” Warden said.

Compounding the problem is the cost to Warden to fix his fence every time someone crashes into it. He build the fence to safeguard his kids, and he said he’s spent several thousands of dollars just on repairs.

“I’ve probably spent 10 or 15 grand to protect my kids,” he said. “I can’t let my kids out to play or ride their bikes on the sidewalk. If any of these situations had been different, we’d all have been dead.”

He said he’s paid for most of the repairs himself because the people who crashed into his fence didn’t have insurance.

Warden doesn’t have any intention of moving. He moved his family into the home five years ago because it had an apartment space where he could house his father, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

It was also a great home to stay to raise a family, he said. It’s close to Illahee Middle School. There’s a frog pond in the back where his kids can play.

But the danger to his children’s well-being concerns him, and he doesn’t allow his children to play near the fence at all, which is hard, because they like to ride their scooters down the gently sloping sidewalk that runs along their property parallel to the fence.

“The ultimate cost for me might be a life,” he said. “The police are aware of it, engineers are aware of it, the fire department is aware of it, but nobody’s doing anything about it. What do you do? It’s getting to the point of being defeatist.”

He said fixing the blind curve and getting people to slow down when they drive along his street is the city’s responsibility. He said he he pays his share of property taxes, and he’s not prepared to foot the several-thousand-dollar bill to install traffic calming devices himself.

“This is a direct city responsibility,” he said. “I’ve never sued anyone for anything, but this is a lawsuit waiting to happen.”

About a month ago, when the weather was still kind of nice, Warden said, he watched from his home as two drivers sped around the street three times.

“They were using it as a raceway,” he said. “Nobody will do anything (to stop it) until there’s a fatality.

“We’re not a neighborhood of 500 people, but we’re still people. We’re just asking for the support of the city.”

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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