Treacherous north Fort Worth crosswalk getting improvements

The intersection of Funnel Street and Alta Vista Road is where Aaron Lancaster was the victim of a hit-and-run March 19.
The intersection of Funnel Street and Alta Vista Road is where Aaron Lancaster was the victim of a hit-and-run March 19. Star-Telegram

New flashing beacons and eventually a four-way traffic signal are planned for a dangerous intersection near Keller Timber Creek High School where three students have been hit by vehicles over the past several years.

Student Aaron Lancaster, 16, remains in a coma weeks after he was struck by a minivan March 19 at Alta Vista Drive and Funnel Street. The driver, who police said fled the scene, is Matthew Wyman of Fort Worth, who was arrested and charged with accident causing serious bodily injury.

The city plans work in two phases, and the first — reducing speed limits and installing more flashing lights, among other measures — has begun. A four-way traffic light is the ultimate goal.

“I’m fully in support of it and will do my damnedest to find the money to make sure the students who cross that street are safe,” said Dennis Shingleton, the Fort Worth city councilman who represents the area.

Shingleton met with Barry Sawyer, the neighborhood police officer since 2007; Doug Wiersig, Fort Worth director of transportation and public works; and a concerned neighbor March 25 to discuss the best solutions.

“Everybody’s on the same page,” Sawyer said.

Phase 1 will take about two months, according to the city, and will include: reducing the school zone speed limits on Alta Vista Drive and Timberland Boulevard from 25 mph to 20 mph; installing more rapid-flashing beacons in the school zone; installing monitors that tell drivers how fast they’re going; adding pedestrian instructions at the crosswalk; and distributing safety information about the beacons to students and residents.

Phase 2, which may take up to a year, according to the city, is to install a traffic signal at Alta Vista Drive and Funnel Street. Design has begun and installation will require some reconstruction of the intersection, according to the city.

The regular speed limit on the street is 40 mph, but Shingleton said that in the short time he stood at the corner, he saw many vehicles driving an estimated 55-65 mph, particularly those headed north.

“You can make a relatively safe intersection, but you can’t legislate against idiot drivers,” Shingleton said.

Sawyer said Alta Vista is “really busy and congested,” especially during school drop-off and pickup hours, and morning and afternoon rush hours.

Collisions and near-misses

Aaron had activated the existing flashing lights as he walked home from theater rehearsal at Keller Timber Creek High School.

The minivan, reportedly traveling at a high rate of speed, struck him — vaulting him more than 90 feet — and drove away, according to a police affidavit. He was left lying in the street, still clutching the “Ugly Lies the Bone” script his theater group was rehearsing.

Aaron was taken to Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Grapevine with a broken arm, broken leg, vertebrae fracture, bruised lung, broken rib and brain injury, according to a police affidavit.

His condition has been improving — he’s been able to sit up and eat pureed food — but he was still technically in a coma Friday in a Dallas rehabilitation center, said Teri Gray, one of the school’s theater booster parents.

Police arrested Wyman, an 18-year-old Crowley High School student, on Monday. He told police he was driving in the area at the time of the crash and didn’t know what he hit, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

“[Aaron] and his family certainly have our heartfelt prayers,” Shingleton said.

Aaron wasn’t the first person hit in the crosswalk. Sawyer said he knows of three confirmed reports of pedestrians hit, as well as many reported near-misses.

Two years ago, “a lot of near-misses” and one collision with a pedestrian prompted the city to upgrade the crosswalk with the pedestrian-activated flashers, said Alonzo Linan, then the assistant director for transportation and public works. It was expected to be “much more effective for pedestrian safety,” Linan said at the time.

But Sawyer said Friday the two worst collisions, including Aaron’s, have occurred since the flashing lights were added.

The other major collision was in October 2015, when 16-year-old Hannah Perkins was riding her bike in the crosswalk and was run over by a pickup, she told FOX 4. She said she hopes the city will install a traffic light.

Sawyer said the crosswalk is the most dangerous in his area, but it’s also the only one without a crossing guard or a traffic signal.

He said other crosswalks around the far north Fort Worth area have similar problems.

Mark David Smith: 817-390-7808, @MarkSmith_FWST