Two-year campaign pays off - The Explorer: Import

Two-year campaign pays off

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Posted: Wednesday, February 2, 2005 12:00 am | Updated: 7:50 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

Jan. 26, 2005 - The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

In the case of Bonny Clark, perhaps the squeakiest of them all, there were no exceptions to the rule.

The Marana resident and several dozen members of her Continental Ranch community celebrated the installation of a new stop light at the intersection of Wade and Silverbell roads Jan. 23 with a ceremonial ribbon cutting and a collective "thank you" to the many who helped make hope a reality.

After a few words of appreciation, Marana Mayor Bobby Sutton handed a pair of oversized scissors to Clark for the chop, signaling a culmination of a more than two-year fight for a traffic signal at the entrance to her neighborhood.

Dressed from head to toe in traffic-light fashion - red, green and yellow - Clark cut the ribbon as the crowd cheered on.

"Too often in life we don't stop and say thank you," she said. "Today was about gratitude and appreciation and to let the community know that working together we can accomplish good things."

Sutton acknowledged that the light wouldn't have happened without the effort of the community.

"Bonny and her neighborhood worked very hard on this," Sutton said. "It was a very well-organized project and it's exciting when something like this happens."

In October 2002, Clark decided it was time to stop complaining and do something proactive about the problematic intersection, which also serves as the Northwest Fire Department's access to Silverbell Road.

During her campaign, Clark knocked on the doors of her neighbors and distributed flyers detailing her cause. She met with town officials and traffic engineers to discuss the problems she saw happening at the intersection.

"It fell on deaf ears pretty much the first time," she recalled. "I was frustrated and kind of gave up for six months."

But her passion for the cause renewed when problems persisted. She contacted town officials again and assured everyone that she "wasn't going to go away."

She dug up accident reports, had her husband Bob take pictures of accidents happening at the intersection and urged the fire station to get proactive about the issue.

"I said I'd bring my shovel and help them start digging whenever they were ready," she said.

Her persistence paid off June 18, 2003 - the day before her birthday - when officials from the mayor's office surprised her with a cake and a message letting her know that she'd won her battle.

"When Bonny sets her mind to do something, clear the decks," said her husband, Bob Clark. "She knows how to get what she wants and I admire her for it. That light would never have gone up if it weren't for Bonny pushing."

Sharon Woolridge, Marana Unified School District transportation supervisor, wrote one of the more than 100 letters to town officials in late 2002 urging the installation of a light. She said a light would make crossing the intersection safer for school children who cross both morning and afternoon.

Letters came from far and wide, including some from the fire department, police, school officials and various friends and relatives. Clark still has copies of them all in a red binder, which contains the hundreds of documents and letters from the campaign.

David Hoefke, who started a neighborhood watch program in Continental Reserve, said he was forced to take Silverbell north and make U-turns as far down as Coachline some days.

"For two years that I was living here, I never made a left-hand turn out of here," he said. "I saw the problems. It was Russian Roulette."

Adhering to Clark's concerns, the Marana Public Works Department eventually conducted a study in May 2003 that found a traffic signal was warranted at the intersection, said Fernando Prol, traffic division manager.

A copy of the study obtained by the EXPLORER details traffic volumes at the intersection increased significantly, about 21 percent, since the last studies were conducted in November 2002.

The study stated it is expected that traffic volumes will continue to increase at a significant rate as development in the area is completed. It also detailed the difficulty of left-hand turns and that three right-angle accidents "that would have been correctible by a traffic signal" had occurred at the intersection in a one-year period, between March 2002 and March 2003.

In light of these findings, the designing process began and construction followed. In all, the project cost slightly more than $300,000, Prol said.

The new signal has preemption capabilities that now allow fire fighters to receive an immediate green light when leaving the nearby station. Prol said it also was taken into consideration that a school bus drops children off in the area.

"It was an ideal location for a traffic signal," he said. "There were a lot of factors that brought this about."

Fire Captain Hampton Jensen said Northwest fire fighters already appreciate the light, which was activated earlier this month.

"This area is so large now that we're actually getting a significant number of calls in this area," he said. But there shouldn't be any more hang-ups for the department, even during a busy rush hour.

"It's easily going to shave off our northern responses anywhere from 20 to 30 seconds," Jensen said. "We have some intersections where all four lanes can see you approaching. This is not one of them. This is one of those intersections that we have to slowly poke our way out and clear lane by lane."

Now that it's all said and done, Clark admits, all along the project was more than just about a mere traffic light. It was about caring for others in her community.

"It's about people and saving lives," she said. "Thirty seconds could be the difference between life and death."

Clark took a moment to thank Prol after the ribbon cutting and said it wouldn't be a reality if it weren't for his dedication.

"He deserves a promotion and a raise," she said.

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