A mother of four literally took matters into her hands to protect children walking to school from speeders.
Cathy Padilla stood outside her home near Lantana Road on Monday, the first day of school, holding a sign that read, “SLOW DOWN.”
The drivers slowed, some even to a speed less than the allowed 25 mph, and some even gave Padilla a thumbs up as a sign of encouragement.
But it’s what happens when Padilla isn’t guarding 13th Street that worries her, and that prompted her to create a petition to install traffic calming devices.
It worked again.
Because of her efforts and of those in her community, Lantana plans to install at least two speed cushions, maybe four, to stop drivers from speeding down the road, what Padilla has named the “13th Street Raceway.”
“We’ve had so many accidents and so many near misses and people have ended up in my yard. It’s really just a matter of time before something really bad happens,” Padilla said.
Padilla said she’s seen a school-aged girl hit while crossing at Palm Street by a car traveling south on 13th Street. She’s seen a poodle get hit. A cat get hit. And a car hit by a speeding driver. Both cars ended up in her yard, she said.
There have been about 20 traffic wrecks on 13th Street or at intersections with 13th Street since 2010, according to documents from Lantana Police. Chief Sean Scheller said he has officers monitoring speeds in that area throughout the day for usually 30 minutes at a time. He said he’s familiar with the traffic problem and knows drivers use it as a cut through to get from Lantana to Hypoluxo Road, or vice versa, to avoid Interstate 95.
Getting the approval for the speed cushions wasn’t easy. Padilla created a petition that was signed by about 71 percent of the residents in the 13th Street area. The town measured how much traffic the area gets. The area was ranked and had to score at least 50 points. It scored 65, according to town documents. Then policy allows for devices to be installed for a 6-month trial. But it needed the Town Council’s approval, which happened Aug. 10.
At the council meeting, town officials said they weren’t sure how many cushions would be installed, or where along 13th Street. Padilla said she hasn’t heard any update. Once they are installed and the six months have passed, the residents will petition the town to either remove the cushions or have them there permanently.
Speeding down 13th Street has been a problem for years and it was about a decade ago when Padilla’s neighbor first thought about starting a petition. But the neighbor didn’t think the women would get enough signatures, and the two decided to give up.
Padilla started again in November, but her efforts were halted when her ex-husband Herminio Padilla Jr. died at the East Central Regional Plant in West Palm Beach. Padilla was a sewage plant worker and fell through a metal floor grating, plunged into sewage and was lodged in a 42-inch pipe. Cathy Padilla said her ex-husband warned of problems at the plant but wasn’t heard.
She took what happened to her ex-husband, and said she didn’t want a death to happen on her street and then have someone say “oh, we should have done” something. So she started again.
“I’m just waiting, hoping that they will hurry up and do it,” Padilla said.
Have a Lantana issue you’d like to see The Post tackle, or a story idea? Contact Alex Seltzer at 561-820-4449 or ASeltzer@pbpost.com.