Safety improvements promised for crosswalk near North High

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) With two accidents in about three weeks, neighbors are grateful to hear safety improvements are planned for a crosswalk in front of North High School. In both cases, a pedestrian was hit while in the crosswalk on China Grade Loop. Now, school and county officials say both a street light and traffic signal will be installed.

The crossing is at Stockton Avenue and China Grade. On Friday, Feb. 1, a pedestrian was hit in the crosswalk at about 6:40 p.m., according to the California Highway Patrol. Officer Robert Rodriguez told Eyewitness News the accident is still under investigation, but primary case was the driver's "failure to yield."

About three weeks earlier, North High student Sheila Lewis was seriously injured in a similar accident. It was a Tuesday at about 6 p.m., and she was hit by a pickup while in the crosswalk. The driver reportedly said it was dark, and he couldn't see her.

At that time, North High principal Alan Paradise told Eyewitness News he planned to discuss the crosswalk conditions with the Kern County Roads department.

"We met at North High," Paradise said. "From that meeting things have really moved forward." The county roads department has promised to put in an additional street light. There are two street lights now, but neighbors have complained they're too dim. The county plan will mean three street lights at the crosswalk.

But that's not all.

The school now plans to make a traffic signal at that intersection part of their campus modernization project. Paradise said North High was built in 1953, and it's now getting updates to some buildings, and things like computers and the electrical systems. Work is also already underway in the parking lot to put in a new drainage system.

From the CHP, officer Rodriguez said his department's records show 15 accidents at China Grade Loop and Stockton since 1992. County roads director Craig Pope said that's a bit lower than average for number of accidents, but adds the traffic signal "makes sense." Pope said the county will work with the school to design the signal project, and may help with the cost.

Sheila Lewis' aunt was thrilled to hear about the safety projects. "The area definitely needs to be improved," Karen Lewis said on Friday. She said Sheila is home recovering, but she ended up with broken legs, collar bone and ribs, as well as internal injuries.

The county started work on the street light project immediately, and Pope said it should be ready in a couple weeks. It's not clear how fast they can get the traffic signal in. Paradise said a lot of details still need to be worked out, but the initial planning is in place.

"We're really thankful that the county is making some changes to light up that intersection," Paradise said. "So that our students are safer."