A request from Homestead Village residents that morning school buses drop off students behind town hall rather than traveling their neighborhood streets to reach met with refusal this week.
Residents who say that an influx of buses endanger children and other walkers along their narrow streets had on March 13 persuaded the to endorse their suggestion of routing high school buses through the municipal complex for the remainder of this school year. Students then would need to cross an athletic field and parking lots to reach a rear entrance to the high school.
Since Feb. 1, buses have been dropping high school students at the Cedar Hill School to try to relieve traffic backups at the main entrance to the high school.
Soon afterward, the township and school board begun talking about a permanent solution for improving traffic flow on high school campus on South Finley Avenue. The school board on for to study ways of streamlining traffic, with the goal of putting a solution in place by next fall.
But Township Committee members on Tuesday said they are unanimously in agreement with Mayor Mary Pavlini's letter to the school board outlining why the high school buses won't be allowed to use the adjoining municipal property at 1 Collyer Lane.
"The Township Committee believes that the school district’s desire to send its school buses through the municipal complex, even on a temporary basis, is not a workable solution," Pavlini's letter said. "On the contrary, we feel it would create even greater safety, traffic and emergency response dangers to our residents, including the Ridge High School students we all want to keep safe."
The letter said the township urges the school administration to consider several other temporary fixes that alone, including re-routing of the traffic pattern on the school campus or reducing vehicular traffic.
At Tuesday's meeting, Pavlini said some other solutions that could bring about an immediate reduction to the high school would be not letting seniors drive to school or preventing all vehicular traffic from entering the high school when buses are entering in the morning.
On a longer term basis, the school administration should conduct the traffic study and come up with a permanent reconfiguration of traffic, the mayor's letter said.
At the meeting, Deputy Mayor Carolyn Gaziano offered a long list of reasons why the municipal complex shouldn't serve as a dropoff location for buses loaded with high school students.
Later, she pointed out that most residents are unaware that two school buses would be unable to pass heading in opposite directions through the stone walls at the entrance to the municipal complex.
"The current municipal drive entrance off Collyer Lane is the single ingress and egress point for all police emergency vehicles with a need for unrestricted emergency response," Gaziano wrote as the first point in her list. "There is already a significant mix of pedestrian car and police vehicle traffic using the municipal driveway," she added.
Along with cars heading to nearby , additional traffic backed up on Collyer Lane and along South Finley Avenue waiting to turn would further block access in and out of the municipal complex, Gaziano wrote.
"With 27,000 residents, we must have access for emergency response," she said during the meeting.
Gaziano said the school district should consider other options for reducing backups at the light entering the high school, including giving seniors an optional first-period study hall.
Later, she said the school district could put a paved loop behind the high school that could be a separate route for vehicular traffic. But she added that she believes school officials do not want to spend the money to construct the traffic loop.
Although school officials have said publicly that one option is to have a two-way entrance through the health department, Gaziano said that a plan being discussed is to turn that into a one-way entrance. Another lane would be added for a short distance to the left of that entrance to keep apart vehicles and buses heading in the opposite direction, she said.
Frustrated Homestead Village residents said they feel like they are stuck between township and school officials in trying to reach a solution.
"It feels like it's a tennis match," said resident Nina Rayburn. She said the situation will become more dangerous when landscapers begin parking along narrow roads, and more people are out walking on streets in warm weather.
"Again, it's an accident waiting to happen," she said of the combination of added buses, cars heading to the high school, and local pedestrians.
Resident Brian Meagher said that school buses are not obeying stop signs.
Pavlini's letter repeated an earlier request by the at this time.