Bernards Township school administrators, with the approval of school board members, already are moving ahead with the simpler plans to improve traffic flow at Ridge High School before school opens next fall. However, the board still is waiting to find a more long-term solution to traffic tie-ups that clog the school entrance on weekday mornings.
School officials expect to meet again with representatives from the township later this week, possibly Thursday, to discuss one option that the school district repeatedly has asked to be considered: paving a gravel driveway located behind the municipal building off Collyer Lane that leads to the rear of the high school.
Schools Superintendent Nick Markarian on Monday said that the school officials could meet for further discussions on the matter in a meeting that may happen Thursday.
Cost estimates and more detailed proposals presented by the school district's traffic consultant Gary Dean in a board meeting last Thursday target the construction of a sidewalk across the township property and the paving of the gravel access as being achievable before this fall, at a cost of about $64,000.
That option, which the consultant said could remove about 300 vehicles from the high school's front entrance at South Finley Avenue, and allow them to head one way only to park in the school's rear parking lots in the morning, would be the easiest and least expensive option for helping to relieve traffic on a more permanent basis, school board member Robin McKeon said last weekend.
But Deputy Mayor Carolyn Gaziano, who is the Township Committee's liasion to the Board of Education, on Monday night said that committee members still remain unsupportive of the idea.
Gaziano said the proposed sidewalk construction, which she said is not completely clear in the drawings submitted as part of the plan, would have students crossing over the entrance to police entrance and exits on the route, which could present a hazard, or impede access for police.
In addition, Gaziano said that 300 vehicles, even entering one-way from Collyer Lane in the morning would overwhelm the complex, and possibly block access and slow traffic as cars waited to turn left from Collyer into the municipal property. Although about 60 to 80 vehicles bearing students already drop them off behind the municipal building on school mornings, Gaziano said that lesser vehicular traffic is about all the township complex can accommodate.
Gaziano said she supports a proposal in which the township would allow an already constructed exit through the Board of Health property to be turned into a one-way entrance, with a separate lane to be constructed at the rear of the health department's property that would head to Ridge's back parking lots. The township is willing to allow that extra lane to be constructed on municipal property, she said.
The additional information submitted by the school's traffic consultant estimated that plan could cost about $121,000 and take six months to implement, as well as possibly requiring county permits for changed traffic patterns and a potential need for widening along South Finley Avenue, a county road.
Gaziano said she expects the meeting will happen on Thursday, but that she beleives the school still should solve its traffic problems without moving that problem to the municipal complex.
That same argument was used by residents of the Homestead Village neighborhood, in protest of a system in effect since last February in which Ridge buses drop students near Cedar Hill Elementary School, where they then head along a walkway to the rear entrance to the high school. Homestead Village residents have repeatedly protested the increase in both cars and buses heading along their streets.
In the short term for now, school officials affirmed again last week that they will move ahead with the easiest ways of easing school traffic, including striping to better outline lanes in front of the school entrance and speed humps to slow vehicles.
The school's business administrator, Rod McLaughlin, last week said the school district already has contacted the county for input on a plan for re-timing a light at the school entrance at the intersection of Lake Avenue and South Finley Avenue. That simple suggestion, along with the possibility of realigning the entire intersection also was explored in the report from traffic consultant Gary Dean discussed at a public school board meeting in late June.
Another proposal, which would cost an estimated $178,000 and take about six months to carry out, would be to construct another entrance to the north of the health department property. That also would require county as well as municipal approvals and breaking through an existing stone wall, the updated report says.