POLL: Should Township Allow Cut-Through to Ridge High School?
Township officials and the Board of Education have debated whether the town should pave a cut-through from the municipal complex to Ridge High.
Bernards Township school administrators, given the green light by school board members, already are moving ahead with the simple plans to improve traffic flow at Ridge High School before school opens in September, including better lane striping, a change in the timing of the traffic signal and raised humps to discourage speeders.
But for a more long-term solution to traffic tie-ups at the school each morning, it seems other steps may have to be other taken.
Cost estimates and more detailed proposals presented by the school district's traffic consultant Gary Dean in a board meeting earlier this summer outlined a number of proposals that are being considered.
One is 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 — what school officials say is the least expensive option of major construction projects to improve traffic flow.
The proposal has been to pave a gravel driveway located behind the municipal building off Collyer Lane that leads to the rear of the high school.
The consultant reportedly estimated that option 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. The entrance then would be cordoned off as soon as school was starting, according to the proposal.
But Deputy Mayor Carolyn Gaziano, who is the Township Committee's liasion to the Board of Education, last week said there are many negative aspects to the idea. For example, she said the concept 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 traffic consultant's cost estimate for that project is $121,000 as well as about needing about a year's time to prepare for, bid and then construct the traffic alterations.
In response to a question, Gaziano said that another concern is that even though this school board may have plans for one-way traffic, paving the existing emergency access road could in the future bring about proposals for even more cars entering and exiting via that back route.
The night after Gaziano's comments, some longtime residents spoke at last Tuesday's Township Committee, where they said their properties along South Finley Avenue have already been severely impacted by a new driveways, new parking lots and other traffic improvements at the high school during years past.
Eileen Walsh, one of three residents who has lived at her home for 21 years, said the tennis courts previously in her back yard were on property that she was required to sell to the school for previous expansions at the high school — and is now a school parking lot.
She, and the others, said they feel they have borne more than their share in the quest to ease traffic jams at the Ridge High School entrance on school mornings.
Meanwhile, residents in the Homestead Village neighborhood have insisted they don't want high school buses back on their local streets once school starts in September. Starting last February and lasting through June, school officials diverted Ridge buses to a back entrance to the high school as one way of trying to reduce traffic volume at the intersection of Lake Road and South Finley Avenue.
Some other ideas discussed in reports from the traffic consultant and at previous board meetings include keeping other vehicles out of the Ridge loop for a brief period while school buses drop off in the morning.
What do you think?