Traffic study finds new streets not needed for intermediate school
(Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of Mirror stories examining aspects of USD 464’s $26.9 million bond issue.)
A new intermediate elementary school on Tonganoxie USD 464’s south campus would not necessitate the construction of new streets, according to a traffic study the district commissioned.
A traffic study completed by the Overland Park firm of Olsson and Associates recommends additional turn lanes at two key intersections near the campus be constructed to help move the 1,032 additional vehicle entries and exits from the site expected each school day with the addition of the new school.
The new second- through fifth-grade school is the centerpiece of the $26.9 million bond issue that will be before district voters April 5. If the bond is approved, the school would open in August 2014 at 80 percent of its design capacity of 800 students.
Tonganoxie USD 464 Superintendent Kyle Hayden said the study was received in early March and forwarded to the city and now being reviewed by its engineering consultants.
The city and the school district have been engaged in discussions about the possible need for street upgrades associated with the opening of an intermediate elementary. That discussion included extension of East Street through the campus and the realignment of East Street north of Washington Street to match the roadway to the south, the extension of 14th Street from the campus to U.S. Highways 24-40, and upgrades on the highway at an intersection with 14th Street.
All told those projects carried a $4.6 million price tag, with the extension of 14th Street alone estimated at $2.28 million.
But the traffic study finds those improvements aren’t needed. It does, however, find the new school will slow traffic through key intersections on Washington Street — although not to the point to warrant traffic signals — and recommends improvements to the street and those on the campus to improve vehicle flow.
The internal campus improvements were figured into the bond’s $26.9 million total, USD 464 Superintendent Kyle Hayden said. The bond also has a built-in contingency that could contribute to the off-site improvements to Washington Street, he said.
Hayden also noted the size of the contingency would not be known until bond projects were bid.
Moreover, no cost estimates will be developed for the Washington off-site improvements until the city’s engineers finish their review. They could concur with the study’s finding or make further recommendations, he said.
There is no commitment from the city or the county (Washington Street is Leavenworth County Road 6 and the county is responsible for its maintenance) to help with the Washington Street turn lanes, but the district would welcome their partnership, Hayden said.
The Tonganoxie City Council will hear a presentation from its engineers on the study at its March 28 meeting.
Among the internal campus improvements covered by the bond issue are:
• Addition of an east turn lane on East Street south of Washington Street.
• Extension of East Street south to a new parking lot/student drop point south of the new intermediate school.
• An additional loop at the middle school’s east parking lot/student drop point.
• Converting Starla Street on the campus to a two-way street.
Hayden said the later three projects would separate bus traffic from morning and afternoon parent traffic and allow for better flow of drop-off/pick-up traffic.
Recommended improvements to Washington Street adjacent to the campus include:
• A 200-foot eastbound right-turn lane on Washington Street to Starla Court.
• A 150-foot westbound left-turn lane on Washington to Starla Court.
• A 150-foot eastbound right-turn lane on Washington to East Street.
• A 150-foot westbound left-turn lane on Washington to East Street.
The recommendations were developed through a study of six intersections, including the Washington Street intersections at Pleasant Drive, Pleasant Street, Starla Court and East Street. Traffic counts were taken at morning and afternoon school rush periods on two January days. “Level of service” rankings were assigned based on the time it took to complete turns during morning and evening peak hours.
The study then projects the level of service at the same intersections with the additional 360 morning and 224 afternoon entries and exits predicted when the new intermediate school reaches its 800 design capacity enrollment.
The study found it currently took from 16 to 25 seconds to complete turns onto Washington Street from Pleasant Street during mornings and evenings, the same length of time to turn west on Washington Street from Starla Court in the afternoon and all turns movements on from East Street except east turns in the morning. Waits of 50 seconds or more to make some turns onto Washington at Starla Court, Delaware and East streets could be expected with the opening of the new school, the study found.
The study made no recommendations of improvements with the addition of a third school on the campus — an 800-student enrollment elementary school estimated to be needed in eight to nine years — because it is unknown how much more growth could occur in the area.
The discussion of the past three months about the possible need to extend East and 14th streets and upgrade the US 24-40/14th Street intersection — which included a city council review of the creation of a benefit district — would be valuable and should continue as the city looked toward development on its south side, Hayden said.