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New dimension to school safety in Windcrest

3D crosswalk at campus praised by police for slowing motorists

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Windcrest in January installed a 3D crosswalk outside Windcrest Elementary School to see how well it slows traffic. Plans for more optical-illusion crossings are on hold until the city determines what marking materials are the most durable. Photo by Jose T. Garza III

WINDCREST — A three-dimensional crosswalk located outside Windcrest Elementary School is making drivers think twice about speeding through the area, police say.

However, a plan to add more 3D designs at other city junctures is on hiatus until officials see how the current crosswalk weathers continued traffic and seasonal changes.

City officials hired artist Ron Lemos of Laredo Striping Co. in January to enhance the crossway outside the school with a 3D pattern to increase awareness of pedestrians, as well as drop-offs and pickups of students, officers said.

“There are going to be people that get comfortable, and they know the route and know where the cops are and know when to distinguish when it’s safe to not be speeding,” Lemos said.

So far, the optical illusion has been effective as there have been no reported accidents by the campus, said Police Chief Darrell Volz.

The ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic has also contributed to a decrease in activity there as well, the police chief added.

Schools closed in March under orders from Gov. Greg Abbott to limit the spread of COVID-19, offering remote learning or packet pickups.

The North East Independent School District is allowing students to learn online until after Labor Day, then return to classrooms, continue their education remotely or a combination of the two.

The illusion of added dimensions has impelled drivers to be extra careful on the road, though the 3D effects cannot be seen until motorists are close to the design, Volz said.

The art is not apparent until drivers near the crosswalk so as not to divert attention from pedestrians, the chief added.

Volz said officials conceptualized the 3D crosswalk after reading about its popularity worldwide.

China, India and Germany are some of the countries that have instituted the low-cost, speed-breaking concept.

The local initiative came at a time when pedestrian fatalities on U.S. roads have jumped by more than 50% over the past decade, according to media reports.

For now, the city is seeing what materials can help sustain the current crosswalk’s durability before creating any others.

The paint is wearing off, he added.

Still, city leaders are pleased with Lemos’ artwork, Volz said.

The design and painting process, which cost $1,500 and consisted of adding shadows and dimensions to the existing crosswalk, took six hours, said Lemos, who earned a bachelor’s degree in art at Texas A&M International University in Laredo.

Funding for the project came from the city’s police budget for school safety, Volz said.

The school is at 465 Faircrest Drive.

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