Archive for Wednesday, January 10, 2007

City, district tackling sidewalk issue

January 10, 2007

For the remainder of this school year, it will be a toss up for middle school students. Do they walk on the white line, inside the white line or outside it.

For students making their way to and from the new middle school on foot, the going can be perilous. Neither Washington nor Pleasant streets has sidewalks. It's possible some sidewalks will be constructed in time for the start of school next fall.

But for now, some students are in dangerous situations.

Monday afternoon, as students trailed home from school, one student walked alone on the north side of Washington. In an attempt to stay out of mud, she walked on the outside edge of the road's pavement.

A school bus, leaving the school with a load of children, stopped, then cautiously veered toward the street's center line to keep a safe distance from the girl.

Steve Woolf, middle school principal, said he's already seen some hazardous situations along the road. In an effort to prevent accidents, Woolf said he's worked with students, instructing them to walk single file and to be safe. But still, he said, kids are kids.

"They're in the street and walking across," Woolf said. "If you really want to affect the safety of kids, build a sidewalk on Washington and a sidewalk on Pleasant. Otherwise, we'll have a memorial sidewalk on Washington ... and we'll have it named after some kid that got killed out there."

'I will not do it'

Monday night, Tonganoxie City Administrator Mike Yanez said city and school officials are looking into two sidewalks -- one on the east side of Pleasant between downtown and Washington Street, and another on school property, on the south side of Washington, to East Street.

Nothing is written in concrete yet, Yanez said, but he believes the two sidewalks would help address safety concerns.

Funding for the work also remains a question. City officials had talked about forming a benefit district of residents on both sides of Pleasant Street to finance a percentage of the $203,280 sidewalk. But if the property owners who attended Monday night's council meeting are any indicator, the city won't get any help.

"If you ask me to, I will not do it," said Tod Forbis, 701 Pleasant.

And he wasn't alone.

"I think there's a need for that sidewalk, but I think it benefits the whole city and the school," said Dan Hess, 1021 Pleasant. "We have a lot of traffic through there because that's one of the only major thoroughfares from Fourth Street to Washington. I think the city should be responsible for it."

Council members underscored they haven't decided how to fund the Pleasant Street sidewalk. And council president Velda Roberts said the school district should pay for any sidewalk in front of the school, adding the district already has committed to doing that, when Washington Street is upgraded.

Managing traffic

During the week since the new middle school opened, traffic has calmed down.

According to a school crossing guard, the first couple of days were the worst. Donna Drinnon said buses and cars were lined up to the bridge near Washington and Church streets after school last Wednesday. And along Pleasant Street, Drinnon said, cars were backed up nearly to Himpel Lumber.

But Monday was better.

Now, rather than standing in the crosswalk stripe, Drinnon stands in the middle of the intersection of Pleasant and Washington.

"That helps the buses get cleared out and it doesn't bog down the rest of the traffic so much," Drinnon said.

And, she said, rather than letting the students cross the street one a at time, she bunches them up and waits until about 10 students reach the corner.

The after-school bustle doesn't last long. Drinnon said it starts at 3:20 p.m., and ends about 15 minutes later.

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