City traffic engineers find new school would overload intersections past acceptable levels
A fully occupied new intermediate elementary school on USD 464’s south campus would delay morning traffic on key intersections near the campus beyond acceptable limits, an engineer told the Tonganoxie City Council.
That finding led the city’s engineers to question the conclusion in the school’s traffic study that the new school at full occupancy would not require new streets to handle the added traffic.
If district voters approve the $26.9 million bond issue Tuesday, the new second- through fifth-grade school would open in August 2014.
Jason Hoskinson of the city’s consulting engineering firm BG Consultants Inc. reported to the council Monday on a review of the traffic study Olsson Associates provided the district earlier this month.
Olsson made its recommendations based on traffic counts conducted during two January days and industry projections of added traffic from schools. Hoskinson said the methodology used to produce the district’s traffic study was appropriate.
The Olsson study found traffic would be delayed on the Washington Street corners of Starla Drive and Pleasant and East streets.
The district’s traffic engineers recommended the installation of turn lanes on Washington Street at Pleasant Street, Starla Drive and East Street to help ease congestion at the intersections.
Hoskinson concurred with those improvements but said they alone would not prevent traffic at the three intersections from being delayed 50 seconds or more in the mornings. That delay, which would give the intersections F ratings, indicated traffic exceeded the intersections’ capacity.
“An F level of service is not considered acceptable,” he said. “The question is: What do we do? One option is to do nothing. Is that acceptable? Some will say yes because we don’t have the money to offer a really nice facility.”
With that delay, motorists could become impatient at stop signs and take risks that could cause an accident, Hoskinson said.
Other options were to remove traffic from Pleasant Street by improving East Street from Fourth to Washington Street to collector street standards or the much discussed extension of 14th Street from the campus to U.S. Highway 24-40 at an estimated price tag of $2.28 million.
Councilman Bill Peak suggested staggered start times at the two campus schools of 30 to 40 minutes could reduce delays.
“If there’s a way to do this simply and save a lot of money — that’s what I’m asking,” he said.
The city engineer’s report also questioned the conversion of Starla Drive south of Washington Street from its current one-way alignment to a two-way street, which was proposed in the Olsson study. With that, the district is proposing adding a loop drive to the middle school’s east parking lot and providing additional parking.
Hoskinson said enough parking would have to be added to keep parents waiting for students from backing up along Starla Drive and further slowing passage through the Washington Street intersection.
Finally, BG Consultant’s response noted concern that policies be established at the mixed parent drop-off/pickup point and parking lot proposed for north of the new elementary school. Should parents not park in the lot, queued cars could back up, causing congestion on East Street. Policies would also need to be but in place to prevent children from walking through the parking lot while cars were backing out of stalls.
The city, school district and their engineers would get together to discuss the concerns raised soon should the bond referendum pass next week, City Administrator Mike Yanez said.
Because Washington Street is also Leavenworth County Road 6 and the county is responsible for its maintenance, the county would also be included in future discussions, Yanez said.
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