Residents of the South Pines neighborhood in Gastonia live tantalizingly close to Martha Rivers Park.

But as the southern end of the city has grown and traffic counts on Neal Hawkins Road have spiked over the years, crossing the busy thoroughfare to get to the recreation site has become a more daunting proposition. Those who live in the roughly 150 single-family homes in South Pines have consistently asked for some municipal help.

In response, city leaders have devised a strategy for making life a little easier for pedestrians in that neck of the woods. It involves installing a new crosswalk and accompanying infrastructure at the intersection of Neal Hawkins Road and Valleywood Drive.

The upgrade will cost an estimated $80,000, and the city will pay for it with leftover money from a 2010 bond referendum that voters approved to make various road and sidewalk improvements. It will include installation of a concrete median that will help to calm traffic and also serve as a ‘refuge island’ for pedestrians to pause in the middle of crossing both lanes of Neal Haskins Road, said Gastonia Development Services Director Rusty Bost.

The work will be enhanced by the fact that Gaston County recently received funding to build a new sidewalk on the south side of Neal Hawkins, extending west from Martha Rivers Park toward Forbes Road and the Village at Parkside. That particular part of Neal Hawkins is unique in that the road passes in, out and then back into the city limits.

Bost said city traffic engineers recently conducted pedestrian and vehicle counts at the intersection of Neal Hawkins and Valleywood.

“That study showed no accidents involving pedestrians and bicycles,” he said.

But it did show a one-week total of 73 pedestrians crossing the street. The speed limit is also 35 mph along Neal Hawkins Road, but the analysis revealed that 85 percent of the vehicles coming east or west along the route were going between 44 and 47 mph, Bost said.

A timetable for construction of the crosswalk and sidewalk has not been determined.

You can reach Michael Barrett at 704-869-1826 or on Twitter @GazetteMike.