Consultant Hired to Improve Traffic Flow at Ridge HS
Study expected to be completed before end of school year.
A traffic consultant has been hired by the Board of Education to study ways of relieving morning traffic at Ridge High School, with the expectation that the study can be done in the next few months, and any solution completed before next fall.
The board agreed at Monday's meeting to hire Dolan & Dean, engineering consultants from Martinsville, for a fee of $10,700. The consultants estimate the study will take four to six weeks, and work could start in about a week if final details of a contract can be worked out within that time, School Business Administrator Nick Markarian said.
During the meeting, Markarian said the consultant had agreed to widen the scope of the study, as requested by a board committee, to consider a solution on Ridge property, as well as alternative access to the high school through the municipal complex off Collyer Lane, or through a walkway behind the Cedar Hill Elementary School.
The school district's administration decided to begin routing Ridge buses to Cedar Hill as of Feb. 1, prompting residents of Homestead Village to repeatedly protest the increase in both cars and buses now using the rear entrance to the high school.
Board member Elaine Kusel said the most important aspect of the study is the traffic consultant will look at how to separate school buses and vehicle traffic on Ridge property in the morning. But she said she thought it still would be a good idea for an outside study on the best solution, even if the consultant recommends using the municipal complex, which she acknowledged might not be politically feasible.
Board President Susan Carlsson, who announced at the meeting she will resign in May, said she did not favor including the option of diverting some traffic to the rear of the school through the municipal complex since the Township Committee has consistently opposed use of the municipal property for access to the high school. Along with other board members, she did vote to hire the consultant, but asked that her objections be noted.
"I think it's picking at a scab," Carlsson said. "We've been told no—I don't know how many times we're going to have to be told no." Township officials have said that traffic leaving the complex could block access for police and emergency vehicles.
The same consultants hired by the board on Monday had conducted a traffic study around 2005 or 2006 and had suggested access through the municipal complex as an option, Markarian said later.
During the public portion of the meeting, resident Sharon Hernandez suggested that access through the municipal complex could be a much needed second entrance to the high school. However, she said the issue of school traffic blocking the exit from the police headquarters on the site could be addressed by only allowing traffic to enter the school from the municipal complex. All traffic could be required to exit from the high school, she suggested.
A gravel and uneven emergency road now links the back of the police station with parking in the rear of the high school.
At the last Township Committee meeting on March 13, residents of Homestead Village asked that the township give approval for students to be dropped off behind the municipal building, and be allowed to cross an athletic field for a "temporary" solution while a long-term remedy is studied.
Township officials did not respond at that time.
After Monday's meeting, Markarian said he does not expect a solution before next fall.
One idea discussed has been widening a one-way exit through the health department to two lanes, allowing cars to enter through a different entrance than buses.
Markarian said the goal is to complete any construction over the summer that might be necessary to implement an improved traffic plan.