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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.

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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