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City intersections to lose crossing guards

Stephanie Rawlings-BlakePatrick O'Brien

Brendan Patrick O'Brien helped his two daughters and their three friends cross a busy stretch of Light Street on their way to a play date Friday from Federal Hill Preparatory School, and was left scratching his head over a decision to cut the number of crossing guards in the city.

The city Department of Transportation in September began re-evaluating the necessity of crossing guards at the 466 intersections where they are stationed. Adrienne Barnes, department spokeswoman, would not provide locations where crossing guards would be removed or say how many locations would lose guards.

Although some schools have already lost a crossing guard, the complete list will not be finalized until the end of the year, she said. The exercise is part of an annual evaluation of expenditures.

O'Brien, of Otterbein, said eliminating crossing guards did not seem in step with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's plan to boost the city's population over the next decade.

"The mayor wants to see 10,000 new families move to the city. I see this as counter-productive," O'Brien said. "I think the city and schools should be doing everything they can to encourage people to stay here."

Barnes said federal guidelines require crossing guards at intersections where 350 cars or 40 children are counted, either during morning arrival or afternoon departure. But she said "some of the locations we are looking at we found a low volume of traffic," including some intersections with "only one or two children crossing the street."

In addition to the amount of pedestrian and vehicle traffic, she said, officials are also evaluating other safety factors. She mentioned one intersection, at Greenmount Avenue and East 21st Street, where a guard is needed because of roadwork.

The cuts to crossing guard locations were first reported by Fox 45.

Barnes said no jobs would be cut. The city has 328 permanent crossing guards. In addition, many crossing guard positions have been filled by the nearly 150 substitutes on the payroll.

Crossing guards are not stationed at all city schools. Barnes said the department works with school officials, and guards are provided when schools request them.

Janet Roa of Federal Hill said city leaders should discuss the situation with residents to get feedback before a final decision is made. She gestured to a four-way stop near her sons' elementary school, at East Cross and William streets, that would be dangerous for children to cross alone.

"I think it would be a matter of information," she said.

Brad Wolters of Locust Point said the city should add crossing guards, not cut the number of intersections where they're stationed.

"I think it would be unsafe to remove them," Wolters said. "As you can see, you already see kids crossing the streets all over the city."

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