PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – A Nease High School student has started a petition for a traffic light at an intersection near the school's campus in Ponte Vedra Beach after two of her classmates were critically injured in crash earlier this week.
Mackenzie Felmet, 17, and Sydney Felmet, 15, were airlifted to area hospitals after the crash Monday afternoon on U.S. 1 at Ray Road, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
According to FHP, Mackenzie, who was driving a Toyota Corolla, was attempting to cross the northbound lanes of U.S. 1 and failed to yield the right of way to a Hyundai Santa Fe heading north in the right lane.
Frustration and anger has continued to grow for students, parents and even staff since the accident. They asked how many more crashes have to occur until a stop light is finally installed?
That's why Katherine Carlo, an 11th grade student at Nease High School, created a petition for a traffic signal at the intersection.
"Actually, they were supposed to start building it in the fall but it got delayed. And it's getting to the point where it's affecting the safety of my friends and the whole community," Katherine said. "I'm just tired of it and decided it was time for me to do something about it."
Documents show that parents have been begging the Florida Department of Transportation to install a light since 2011. Surveys have been conducted, and FDOT officials approved the installation of a stoplight in May, but there is still no light.
"You have people going to work. We've got young kids who are just learning how to drive and you got school buses too. You have pedestrian traffic. Kids are getting here early in the mornings for practice and things like that. There's a lot of traffic that comes through here," said Kimberly Neal, whose daughter attends Nease High School.
Since traffic surrounding the school's campus has increased over the last few years, Neal and other parents said safety has become a serious concern.
"We need a stoplight here. This is a heavy traffic area -- high-speed," Neal said. "It's 55 (mph) out there unless the school zone sign is flashing. Then, it only slows down to 45."
Neal said both she and her husband have both signed Katherine's petition.
News4Jax called FDOT to see what was causing the delay in the installation of the light. An official said the project is in design, but utility work must take place before the project can begin.
In the meantime, FDOT said it will put signs up in the area and will work to expedite the installation.
"What takes priority over that? Why is it getting pushed back? Is the kids' safety not important enough? What's more important than that?" Neal asked.
According to a communication News4Jax obtained from the Florida Department of Transportation to the St. Johns County School District, a traffic light at U.S. 1 and Ray Road is set to be installed in September 2017.
The proposed traffic signal at US 1 and Ray Road has received construction funding for Fiscal Year 2017-2018. We are currently working on the design and will have the design complete and ready for construction to begin September 2017. Phase II (60%) Plans will be ready for review in November. In anticipation of these plans, I was wondering if you would like to meet with the Department in December to discuss the project, schedule, and the proposed school zone removal.
St. Johns County Superintendent Dr. Joseph Joyner also sent Thursday a letter requesting FDOT to make the installation of the traffic signal a higher priority and install it as soon as possible
Click here to sign the petition created by Katherine on Change.org. A second online petition has also been started for a traffic signal at the intersection.
A GoFundMe account has also been set up to help the Felmet family with medical expenses as the teenage girls continue to recover.