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Ridge High School's Traffic Solution a District Priority

Bernards Board of Education begins discussing this school year's goals, including solving the high school traffic problem that hasn't gone away.

and other Board of Education members began ticking off a tentitive list of goals for the 2012-13 school year — and along with consideration of additional Advanced Placement courses and generating revenue for the district, the goal that's been front and center for almost nine months is dealing with traffic problem.

If school officials had any doubts, three homeowners who live along South Finley Avenue near the main entrance to the high school at 268 S. Finley Ave. showed up at Monday's meeting to protest the school district's current preferred solution.

Markarian said the township's traffic consultant already has asked Somerset County to add a left-turn lane on South Finley that would allow turning the one-way exit from the school's driveway through the into a one-way entrance. The entrance then could allow drivers, including students, to enter the side and park school parking lots at the northern end of the school property.

The county has asked for additional information, which the school district is providing, he said. School officials have been looking for a long-term alternative to sending the Ridge buses to drop off at the next-door , as has been done since February,

But homeowner Bill Connors, who lives at 265 S. Finley Ave., across from the health department, said on Monday that the school officials should consider other alternatives. And he chided the school district in general for conducting major improvements and an expansion at the high school without ever coming up with a traffic solution as part of a $54-million schools referendum approved by township voters in 2005.

"We spent $54 million and didn't have a drop-off in front of the [new] gymnasium," Connors said. Even now, he said the district could solve the traffic flow problem for less money, and without impinging further on neighbors, by removing some of the curbing and concrete in front of the new gym's entrance.

That also would allow vehicles other than school buses to drop off students by being diverted through the parking lot by the new school gym, Connors suggested.

Other ideas he brought up included blocking cars from entering the school loop at all between 7:10 a.m. to 7:20 a.m., when most of the school buses would arrive. "Is that annoying to some parents? Of course it is," he noted. But he said that other school district's impose such traffic restrictions.

Connors said that township school officials have done a "fantastic job" of educating students, but as far as facilities management had earned an "F."

Connors also questioned the board's expenditure of more than $21,000 total to commission two studies from the same traffic consultant whom he said had six years ago suggested the exit through the adjoining health department — and is now suggesting it be turned into an entrance.

In addition, he said that school officials had said that prior to the $54-million referendum that the back lots would not be used by students, mostly seniors.

Markarian said afterward that in 2005 he had been part of the administration at the

But he said that planning would require sufficient parking for a building holding as many people as Ridge High School.

Two other neighbors, Eileen Walsh, and Parag Dhagat, who live on either side of the main school entrance, said they endorsed Connors' comments.

Walsh said that in the 20-plus years she has lived in her home, a new entrance had been installed alongside her property and part of her back yard had been taken to create parking lot "A" in front of the new gym. She said that it also is difficult living with uncertainty about what school officials will do next to address traffic flow at the high school.

School Board President Susan McGowan told the residents that the board's subcommittees, including the facilities committee, would be meeting prior to the next scheduled school board meeting and will discuss some of the comments made by the neighbors.

School board members also agreed to come up with more ideas for the board's goals for 2012-13 through discussions in subcommittees.

Board Member Michael Byrne said the board's and consultant's suggestions for a cost-effective and preferred The board has asked that car traffic be allowed to enter only via that access road during school mornings. "I think our primary solution has been taken off the table," Byrne said.

rescue September 11, 2012 at 11:55 AM
It has been 9 months since the buses started dropping off at Cedar Hill and there is still no solution to the problem. The township committee approved the expansion of Ridge knowing that there would be a traffic problem and therefore it is up to them to fix the problem. The cheapest easiest fix is the pave the driveway between the municipal complex and the Ridge parking lots. It only needs to be one way into Ridge in the morning 7 to 7:45 and then it can be gated off for the rest of the day. It will not impact the police because it is only one way in and it will not impact the municipal employees because they start after 7:45. This would take everyone parking in the upper lots out of the intersection and the front of the school. Widening the driveway by the Health Department will not take cars out of the intersection. It is to close to the traffic light. However, making the intersection “No Left Turn” from any direction between 7 and 7:30 would move traffic in and out of Ridge much faster. Anyone needing to enter Ridge with a left turn will need to get there before 7. I have driven my kids to school since kindergarten. They finally qualify for busing and I am still driving them. Not only do they have to walk from Cedar Hill in all kinds of weather but they have to be out to the bus by 6:35 am. Having the buses come earlier to avoid the traffic and sending them to Cedar Hill has just caused more people to drive.
Todd Edelstein September 11, 2012 at 03:53 PM
There is no reason to prevent a test period of allowing the buses to exit the high school by driving on the gravel towards town hall and exit through the municipal complex. With the rear path being gravel, the buses would travel slower and despite what the Chief of Police claims as well as the Mayor & Twp members, I think for the 15 minutes that buses would be leaving, emergency vehicles would not be anymore hampered than normal. If I am wrong, then they can stop the bus travel after the test period. If the buses seem to stack up though the municipal complex, then assign someone by the back lot where there is a gate and have them stagger the buses exiting. It just baffles me how the BOE & town like to throw money away or make life more difficult on this problem. The money the BOE is burning for a traffic consultant could pay for more gravel & a part time employee to monitor the buses exiting through the town hall.
Petro24 September 11, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Would the Town Committee and BOE get off their high-horses and check their egos at the door? Stop the long-standing Hatfield / McCoy feud and fix the problem! Instead, we push a town problem off (without notice or public input) to a quiet, defenseless neighborhood. Why is the municipal complex off limits? Many, many people agree this is a simple, low-cost and easy-to-implement solution. Make it a one-way and ONLY-way entrance for the students to enter that parking lot in the morning. It will reduce a ton of traffic at the front entrance so the buses can return and it doesn't impact police for that short period of time because students are parking not exiting. I agree with Todd, there is no reason to not have a test period but it should be student traffic not the buses. For some unknown reason, the Town Committee has dug in its heels. Could it be the long-standing feud? You all work for us. Please stop the lip service and get it done.
Bill Connors September 11, 2012 at 06:10 PM
P24 - you are correct - an ENTRANCE ONLY for the 260 cars going to lots C&D from 7-7:30am is the proposal. Currently, 70 cars already use the municipal complex to drop-off students - so converting the drive to ENTRANCE ONLY will mitigate the concern for police vehicles trying to exit. The math is the following: 260 cars entering less 70 cars no longer using = 190 additional cars on the complex drive for 30 minutes - about 6 cars per minute. This compares to the nearly 1200 cars that are going through the interesection at the high school from 7-7:30am - which is about 40 cars per minute. What is better? 6 cars per minute on a drive little used or 40 cars per minute on the most congested street in basking ridge? For some background - the Township Committee passed a resolution in 2005 ALLOWING 2 WAY access to the high school through the municipal complex. The township engineer (Peter Messina) provided supporting drawings and a study and the then serving Chief of Police Kelly reviewed and supported the plan as well. I am not sure why an ENTER ONLY access now would raise concerns by the Township Committee when there were apparently no concerns for a FULL 2 way access plan in 2005. To make the matter that much worse - the BOE is now spending more money to research an alternative that few if any support at the BOE level as well as the community level purely to "avoid a war wit the Township Committee" as was told to me.
Eileen W September 11, 2012 at 07:52 PM
As Bill Connors learned, the following question and answer was published in the Q&A distributed by the BOE prior to the 2005 vote on the $54M referendum for Ridge High’s expansion: Q. “Why are we paving more fields to let high school seniors drive to school?” A: The additional parking is not for the high school students….” The answer went on to state that the new parking spaces would be used for (1) “event” parking at the new PAC and gym and (2) Cedar Hill teachers. It further said that “If any spaces are left over, they might be made available during school hours – for example, to students who need to drive to work after school.” Student parking has become the norm, not the exception suggested by the BOE's answer. Despite the BOE’s broken promise, however, we are NOT asking it to ban student parking. Rather, we hope the Township Committee will further consider use of the municipal complex to help solve this problem. However, if that option is in fact off the table, we ask the Board to solve the problem that it has created through minor physical alterations to the Ridge High campus (as Bill Connors suggested at last night’s meeting) and/or other measures within the Board’s & Ridge High’s control, rather than by passing its problem on to South Finley neighbors (as we have already borne more than our fair share of past imperfect “solutions”) or by asking taxpayers to incur yet more significant costs.
Petro24 September 11, 2012 at 09:11 PM
There are many who are perplexed by this 'hands of the municipal campus' issue as it makes no sense. That 'war' comment should be very surprising and disheartening but, unfortunately, it isn't. We have heard about this ongoing feud with the BOE from others who were involved in past years. I'd love to know when and why this fight started. Also, my spouse witnessed the arrogance of one TC member at one of the past commission meetings which we originally dismissed as 'having a bad day'. Now, I wholeheartedly thank the TC members and all public servants for their service, committment and sacrifice. And, we really appreciate it. Our TC has generally done a very good job over the last 5-7 years. I would just ask those who have become a bit arrogant and obstinate over the years to take look in the mirror and hit the reset button. Let's keep the power & ego trips out of this phenomenal town....Please?
cdp1 September 12, 2012 at 12:14 AM
What is wrong with you peaple?Wake up! There is no parking at high school ! To drive there car and park it they might as well walk from home.So stop paying for bussing! or let them walk
Todd Edelstein September 13, 2012 at 12:39 AM
@P24, I've been thinking about it and I agree with you, instead of the buses exiting, have the students w/parking passes enter through the town hall entrance. They pull in and park for the rest of the day. After 8am, a gate can be closed, so it doesn't become a two way street. With the cars entering from collier lane, the impact to police response would be kept to the minimum.
SD September 14, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Entrance though the municipal complex in the morning is the obvious solution. It was the top recommendation of the expert traffic consultant. I have not heard any real reasons from the Township Committee why they oppose this cost effective option. Overall it will greatly help the traffic and safety conditions in the town, and can be done quickly
rescue September 14, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Truthfully the only solution that makes any sense is to go through the municipal complex. The township committe needs to drop the "not in my backyard" attitude and do what is right for the entire town. This is not just a Ridge problem, this impacts everyone's ability to get through in the morning,
Eileen W September 14, 2012 at 06:27 PM
I used to agree, but am now less convinced. I don’t see why Ridge High Administration hasn’t measured “travel time” (how long it takes to drive through the campus from point of entry to either exit/parking); taken steps within its control (e.g., a limited “blackout” period, extending dropoff points to include the area in front of the gym and ensuring that dropoff consistently extends to the furthest northern point on the oval, better traffic management, all "no cost” solutions); and then re-measured travel times to assess the impact of its efforts. Who knows? By reducing congestion on the campus, congestion on South Finley and Lake may also be reduced. [Putting speed tables and signs along the “upper” level, which Ridge already did, seems more likely to reduce “weaving” across traffic lanes, than to reduce congestion.] Instead, Ridge High first shifted the problem to Homestead Village; then tried to shift it to the Township Committee and municipal complex; and is now trying to shift it to South Finley homeowners. Unfortunately, rather than try to help itself, the BOE seems to be trying to force the Committee’s hand on use of the municipal complex and pursuing an option that would involve the widening of South Finley, both of which would cause taxpayers to assume what may be avoidable costs and neither of which is likely to get Committee approval or support. I think I now better understand the Committee’s position.

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