Indianapolis school zone lights not working as they should

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Like a modern day lighthouse, yellow flashers in school zones protect precious cargo. But only if they work.

City County Councillor Susie Cordi drives a school bus for Warren Township Schools. She reached out to the CBS 4 Problem Solvers for help when she noticed some lights in school zones were not flashing as they should.

“Well, there`s still some bugs getting worked out,” Cordi explained. “If school`s in session and they`re not flashing, they`re still going to go 50, 60 miles an hour."

CBS4Indy's Frank Mickens talked with DPW spokeswoman Betsy Whitmore about Cordi's concerns, asking if the warning light system is working at its best, and that all the kinks have been worked through.

“We work through each one individually," Whitmore said.

Whitmore did not say, ‘Yes, they`re all working.’ CBS4Indy went out to check for ourselves.

At 6:15 a.m. on a Tuesday before school, our camera's light was the only reason you could see the 25 mile per hour sign on E. 16th St. near Warren Central High School. For 45 minutes, buses loaded with kids passed by--headed to school just feet away – and still no flashers. At 7:01 a.m., they finally came on, just 19 minutes before the opening bell.

“These lights flash an hour before and hour after dismissal time,” Whitmore said. “That`s the time we know children are most active in the area.”

Protect kids an hour before and an hour after the morning and afternoon bell – that`s the schedule. But, it didn`t happen that morning. And, that afternoon? Same problem. Again, on E. 16th St., it was lights out.

There are no sidewalks on that street right outside Warren Central High School. And you can tell people have been walking right next to the road where you see a well-worn dirt path. But, CBS4Indy watched as bus after bus after bus passed us to pick up kids from school.

Warren Central lets out at 2:45 p.m. But, our cell phone video shows the lights didn`t start flashing until 3 o`clock. A full 15 minutes late. Councillor Cordi said it’s still better than before.

“In the beginning they were flashing on Saturday and on Sunday. But they got most of those bugs worked out,” she said.

But it still wasn’t right.  And that put students at Warren Central at serious risk. Remember, there`s no sidewalk. And, CBS4Indy saw, firsthand, as a teenager walked in the street and a car drove into the opposite lane to avoid hitting the boy. Then we watched a truck veer into the opposite lane to miss a second boy.

With the safety issue clearly caught on camera, we went back to DPW, asking about the lights out of sync near Warren Central. They denied our request for an updated interview and sent this statement:

“DPW reached out to Warren Township earlier this month to coordinate a meeting to address questions and concerns regarding school flashing beacons near their schools. We have worked to adjust the timing of the lights previously, and we are working with the township to make sure the lights are timed as needed.”

“I mean it just takes one time for one kid to get hit by a car. And somebody`s going to have to deal with that with the rest of their life if somebody gets killed," Councillor Cordi said.

After we brought the issues on E. 16th St. to their attention, DPW told us the lights at Warren Central were fixed. We went back to check one afternoon and they still came on 45 minutes late and stayed on at least 15 minutes too long.

So how is that possible?

In an email from DPW, a spokesman said they were going to adjust the times. But those new times he referenced still triggered the lights to come on 45 minutes too late and stay on 45 minutes too late in the afternoon. It also scheduled the lights to start flashing 20 minutes too early and end 20 minutes too early in the morning. Now, DPW is telling us the two-hour window is not a concrete policy.

Wayne Township had similar problems with flashers on 10th St. DPW says those light schedules have been fixed. And, they're asking you to call the Mayor`s Action Center if you notice problems.

The Marion County Council Public Works Committee is scheduled to take up the issue. Councillors Susie Cordi and Jeff Miller both have questions about why the system isn’t working.

CBS 4 Problem Solvers will be watching for how Marion County takes care of the confusion and our kids.

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