With the question of how to approach a long-term solution to Ridge High School's traffic flow problem still unresolved, township and school officials are scheduled to meet again next Tuesday to consider the options.
"We will be going over all options," Township Deputy Mayor Carolyn Gaziano told residents at Tuesday's Township Committee meeting.
However, after the meeting she, along with Township Committeeman John Carpenter, who also expects to attend the next session of the school board's facilities committee on Oct. 2, both said they would continue to oppose the school board's request to pave over a gravel driveway leading from the municipal complex into the back parking lots of the high school.
"The municipal complex is a non-starter, and they need to stop asking for it, because it's not happening," Carpenter said.
On Monday, Schools Superintendent Nick Markarian said after the meeting that no final decision has been made about the approach that the school district will take in addressing the problem. "We are looking at different possibilities," he said.
Meanwhile, three residents who live along South Finley Avenue near the high school entrance — and who say their properties would be further impacted by a plan to widen that road and create a left turn into the school through the health department driveway — expressed their concerns before the Board of Education on Monday, and at the Township Committee meeting on Tuesday.
The residents presented different proposals from the board's preferred option — which is contingent on getting approval from Somerset County to create a turning lane on South Finley near the health department property. All asked that they be allowed a chance to serve on a committee to give their input.
"I am not going away," South Finley resident Bill Connors told the school board on Monday. "I will be at every meeting."
Connors asked the school board, and then the Township Committee, to create a promised task force, that would include residents from South Finley, to address the issue of how to best alleviate traffic at Ridge's main entrance at the intersection of South Finley Avenue and Lake Road.
As in the past, Connors told the school board on Monday they should consider other options such as a ten-minute blackout period, from about 7:05 to 7:15 a.m., in which buses only would be allowed to drop off students at the high school in the morning.
Eileen Walsh, who also attended both meetings, urged the Township Committee to attend Tuesday's discussion with an open mind. She outlined her position in a letter submitted to Patch and others earlier on Tuesday.
Parag Dhagat, another neighbor on South Finley, said on Tuesday he had in the past contacted the school board to discuss serving on such a task force, but had received no answer.
Dhagat also sent out a letter to multiple recipients on Tuesday, including the county in the list which he urged to deny the school board's request for widening South Finley.
"It is a public hazard, in no less a place than the Health Department," he wrote. "Such grantings only increase the high school students trends to bring private cars to the high school, instead of promoting bussing in."
Gaziano said on Monday that she and Carpenter are not in favor of widening South Finley Avenue for a left turn lane across oncoming traffic.
She said that the township officials will attend next week's discussion with Township Engineer Tom Timko, whom she said has drawn up plans that she hopes will show how to avoid widening South Finley.
In the meantime, Ridge High School buses continue to drop off students each morning at the Cedar Hill Elementary School. Students then walk along a walkway to the rear entrance to the high school.
The new dropoff location was set last February. The appearance of more than 20 buses with high school students immediately prompted residents from the Homestead Village neighborhood to repeatedly appear before both the school board and Township Committee with the complaint that bus and continuing car traffic on their narrow residential streets is a safety hazard.
At Monday's meeting, school board member Michael Byrne again called upon the township to consider paving the back gravel driveway leading from the municipal complex to the high school property. The school district and a consultant hired to examine traffic options have suggested proposal is to allow car traffic to enter one-way during mornings.
Byrne noted that police now have only one way in and out of the municipal complex at this point, and a second access road leading to the high school — which he said during the day is occupied by about 2,000 people — could be a benefit to police if there is ever a large-scale emergency.
Township officials have maintained that the school district should solve Ridge's traffic flow problem on the high school property.