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Archive for Monday, September 17, 2007

Traffic near high schools a growing concern

Concentration of inexperienced drivers in congested areas adds to worries

September 17, 2007

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3 Questions with Rick Gammill, director of special operations for Lawrence public schools

3 questions with Rick Gammill, director of special operations for Lawrence public schools, who is talking about traffic around both Lawrence high schools. Enlarge video

Traffic congestion at Free State

With upgrades on the horizon at LHS, parents and students at Free State say their school needs improvements too. Enlarge video

Cars line up Friday outside Free State High School on Overland Drive to enter the parking lot and pick up students. Traffic congestion in the area is increasingly a problem.

Cars line up Friday outside Free State High School on Overland Drive to enter the parking lot and pick up students. Traffic congestion in the area is increasingly a problem.

Evan Adkins, a Free State High School senior, usually lingers a little after school talking with friends. Otherwise he knows what awaits him on the neighboring streets.

"After school, it's pretty much chaos, and so I'm out here waiting," he said.

He said before he had spent 10 to 20 minutes waiting in line to leave school property. School buses pulled into the circle drive south of Free State at Thursday's dismissal, and parents lined both sides of Overland Drive in their vehicles to add to the congestion.

Laura Dahnert waited for her sophomore son. "It's a whole lot worse than I ever would have thought," she said.

Across town at Lawrence High School, 1901 La., senior Michael Bolden knows that parking spaces are a premium in central Lawrence near the Kansas University campus.

"We do need more parking," he said.

Weekdays are traditionally bustling with traffic in the morning and afternoon at both high schools with students, bus drivers and parents coming and going.

Traffic safety has long been an issue around LHS. The school district and city have plans for improvements near 19th and Louisiana streets and an added Louisiana Street bus turn-off lane to be built before next fall.

After a Sept. 7 noninjury chain-reaction accident in front of Free State involving several cars and a separate accident involving a school bus, parents say development around the school the last few years warrants an upgrade to the road situation there, too.

"We almost need another exit because it gets so congested," said Sarah Craft, a Free State senior.

Rick Gammill, director of special operations, safety and transportation, said the district deals with traffic issues around all of its schools at certain times of the day. The two high schools add the element of younger and less-experienced drivers. School leaders also rely on the two school resource officers to work with students on driving safety and parking, administrators said.

He said wet streets from a night rain may have played a role in the recent accidents. At this point, no major traffic plans are in the works for Free State, Gammill said, but district leaders are confident the city would be keeping a watchful eye on the area's development.

It's been six years since Renee Morel last had to navigate the streets around Free State. Her oldest daughter graduated from the school in 2001, and she now has a sophomore there.

Traffic is worse now, Morel said, because development near Free State has already made for slower and more crowded traffic at the beginning and end of the day. She said it's too difficult to make a left turn coming north on Folks Road onto Overland Drive because of the significant southbound traffic since the opening of Peterson Road.

It's also a task to come in from the west off Wakarusa Drive, she said.

"I just think it's unsafe for our most inexperienced drivers," Morel said.

Trying to add a third exit from the parking lot should be examined, although it would be difficult given the athletic fields west of the school, said Morel and Dahnert.

"I wonder how much just pent-up frustration there is just sitting in traffic," Morel said of the line of students at the end of the day.

The traffic patterns in the area were chief concerns during the discussion of building a Wal-Mart at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive. The proposal cleared the City Commission last month, and the Kansas Department of Transportation and city engineers in an analysis said the roads were built to handle the increase in traffic.

David Woosley, the city's traffic engineer, said the Overland Drive and Wakarusa Drive intersection would warrant a traffic signal "at some point as the area continues to develop."

Improvements will also be needed sometime at Folks Road and Overland Drive.

"But that point hasn't been reached yet, and I'm not sure exactly when it will," Woosley said.

Gammill said the district assesses traffic situations at its schools and also consults the city if necessary, like when it worked on the timing of traffic signals near Sixth Street and Folks Road.

With some improvements scheduled near LHS, parents say some kind of traffic upgrades around Free State are also warranted.

"I had no idea what it was like up here until I actually had to drive it," said Dahnert, the parent of a Free State sophomore.

Comments

grimpeur 6 years, 7 months ago

blueharley wrote: "But kids want to drive."

So freaking what?

You've hit the nail on the head. Yeah, they want to drive. And so do a lot of professors, researchers, clerks, baristas, shop owners, vice provosts, secretaries, grad students, phlebotomists, and many, many more. Even those who live less than a mile from school or work. Even those who don't need their cars for doing their jobs. Even those whose spouses are doing the same thing. And they will be the ones complaining about congestion.

Again, so what? They want to drive. They don't have to drive. They WANT to. Sorry, we as a society, as a city, can't afford to support this lifestyle. This should be obvious.

I say: tough. Too bad. If we don't want to become the victims of our self-inflicted traffic woes, find another way.

You know what? We will. But not, apparently, until we are forced to.

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gccs14r 6 years, 7 months ago

There shouldn't be just a restriction on who can park, but also on who can drive to school. If you don't have a 3.2 GPA, no wheels for you, even if you want to park off campus. Being a Senior and having a cumulative HS GPA of 3.2 gets you the opportunity to pay for a parking permit. My guess is that there will be plenty of spots to choose from and little if any traffic congestion. It might also encourage the kids to study.

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del888 6 years, 7 months ago

Relax people...... If Walmart is built correctly, then all the kids at FSHS can just cut thru the Walmart parking lot. Surely it will have more than one exit! In the mean time, I wonder what would happen if that loop around the school was made 2 lanes one-way. That would eliminate the kids turning in front of each other, and generally there are less accidents on a one-way street.

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mom_of_three 6 years, 7 months ago

I don't think either school has room to move the 9th graders to the high schools.

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been_there 6 years, 7 months ago

Maybe it is time to revisit the idea that many parents supported when Free State was built. Have LHS be for grades 9 and 10, and Free State for 11th and 12th grade. That puts the more experienced teen drivers at Free State, and there won't be as many students driving at LHS. Just a thought. Of course then you would only have one football and basketball team. It would also free up room in the junior highs.

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Emily Hadley 6 years, 7 months ago

By the time the NW corner is developed, we'll have to expand the I-70 on- and off- ramp convenience so that E-W-bound folks can just bypass Sixth altogether. Then everyone heading east from 6th and Wak can go out to the west leg of K-10, head north to the I-70 East entrance, then get home via the McDonald Drive exit.

Then we can move on to putting a Pepperjax, a Flying J, and a Waffle House on Lakeview Rd... and maybe shorten it to View Rd., since Lakeview won't make sense anymore.

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Stain 6 years, 7 months ago

The situation at LHS is different from the one at FHS because LHS has been around forever. It took a long time for the situation to develop around LHS. The idiots on the commission are deliberately creating the exact same situation at FHS and it is completely avoidable.

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Stain 6 years, 7 months ago

Traffic around Free State High is insane and just wait until the developers finish with that corner.

It was crazy to put a high school on a state highway in the first place. Over 99% of the students live on the other side of that highway. Then they didn't stick to the original zoning regarding commercial construction on that corner.

When a kid gets killed, there will be blood on the hands of every single city commission - especially on the current one. Any fool could predict disaster, but they had and have the power to prevent it.

What's a dead kid or two, compared to the millions made by developers and their paid-for commissioners?

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hujiko 6 years, 7 months ago

the wait at free state is horrible, evan is right, you are better off waiting inside until the traffic gets down, but the general layout of freestate is what pisses me off, think about it, if the parking lot was on the street side, and kids didnt have to drive down the only 2 exits, then there wouldnt be the problem, and if they put a road in between folks and wakarusa, then they wouldnt have as many people trying to take lefts or rights on either of those streets. the other thing about the layout, is that the front parking lot for teachers and where busses load / unload merges into one of the two streets that students use to get through, which makes the line back up more because the busses drive incredibly slow.

http://www.flashearth.com/?lat=38.97511&lon=-95.303216&z=17.5&r=0&src=msl

that shows how ridiculous the layout is, if they altered the front loop, and made a lot in the front, most of this would end.

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logrithmic 6 years, 7 months ago

Grimpeur....

Eloquently stated and right on....

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herbalife4life1 6 years, 7 months ago

how about more after-school programs?

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Ralph Reed 6 years, 7 months ago

Lunacy, your detector isn't working well at all.

"at least the teachers have a place to park to go along with their half day wednesdays every week. must be nice to work 9 months a year, get every holiday off, and have a half day in the middle of the week so the children in our community can become unsupervised latch key kids. give the teachers some more money, dammit - or did they get a half day because the administration didn't want to pay them more?"

Let's see where your expressed hatred for the lowest paid professionals in our country stands out.

  • Teachers work on the half-day Wednesdays and the district mandates meetings that can't take place while the "latch key kids" are in school. Teachers don't have a choice in this. Teachers also use this time to work with students who need help, contact parents who don't respond, reply to vitriolic emails and baseless accusations.

  • Teachers work 9 months because that's all our education system allows. The other three months they MUST attend college courses AT THEIR OWN EXPENSE in order to maintain their ceritification. Many work 9 months out of the year and attend school in the summer while carrying a second job just to make ends meet. I know very few teachers who don't carry a second job for at least part of the year.

  • Unsupervised latch key kids. Schools are not a babysitting service, period. If you can't trust your kids enough to go home and not get into trouble (any more than any kid their age), then perhaps you should relook your relationship with your kids. It's too bad you seem to consider your kids so much of a problem that someone has to watch them. If you want a babysitting service, enroll your kids in a daycare. Better yet, get your kids to participate in extracurricular activities; the benefits are outstanding.

*The only sensible thing you said was to "give the teachers some more money". With this, I completely agree.

In short, it's your comments indicate you know few, if any, teachers. Your comments are also a shining example of how low the respect for our education system has become. At one time teachers were highly regarded professionals. People of your ilk have stripped that respect and should be ashamed.

Lunacy, you need to walk a mile in another person's shoes before your say anything about them.

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Confrontation 6 years, 7 months ago

Get the soccer moms off of their cell phones. That should decrease traffic accidents in every part of town.

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blue73harley 6 years, 7 months ago

grimpeur - Maybe your ideas are how it SHOULD be. And maybe, as a teenager, you had no desire to have a car. And maybe you don't have a teenage kid at home that doesn't want a car. But you are in the minority. School buses are readily available to haul kids to school from most neighborhoods over a couple miles away. But kids want to drive. I did. My daughter did. My son does now. To ride the school bus somehow turns them into second class citizens. This is the mindset that would need to change to make public transit desirable. Frankly, I do not see it happening in small towns in the midwest anytime soon.

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salad 6 years, 7 months ago

"Um, salad., the article focuses on traffic at BOTH high schools thus the plural in the title. (Sorry, just wanted to be a little sanctimonious today. I certainly hope it does not diminish my point in any way.)" Um, blueharley, if by "focus" you mean one paragraph out of the whole article, then sure. 90% of the article is about FHS, which is what I would call focus. The more important question is why not give equal space? Maybe because FHS is all shiny and new, and LHS doesn't have any more room for expansion and by extension an outlet for administrators to get their money-spendin' jones on?

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grimpeur 6 years, 7 months ago

blueharley, I was fortunate to attend high school in a city that had good public transit and so was able to ride a bus when I wasn't biking or walking the 3 miles. When cities learn that it's more important (and more efficient and a lot smarter) to provide the means to move PEOPLE instead of their mostly-empty cars (which then must be stored, empty, 9-10 hours per day), then they can start spending money on things more important than 0.5-mile single-occupancy drivers.

Parking should be capped at its present level, and residents around LHS and KU should be given resident permits for their cars. Without one, motorists are prohibited from parking in the streets around the campuses. This method works well in areas of larger cities where the number of vehicles of commercial and residential users exceeds available space.

Of course, while these (surely draconian) measures are implemented, ALTERNATIVES must be provided, and these will be within our budget after we've stopped pandering to (and spending outsized outlays on) the lifestyle choices of the SO drivers. That's right: "lifestyle choices." Not necessities, but choices. Who, among the over 90% of drivers who is alone in the car each day couldn't walk, bike or carpool? We don't HAVE to drive alone each way. We could pick up a neighbor who works near us. We could get a ride with a fellow student. We could pick up a coworker who lives nearby. And maybe...just maybe...when the day comes that LHS and KU and the city have the fiscal sense to say, "Sorry, no more parking here," AND figure out a way to make money off of those who insist on this wasteful behavior, AND provide the kind of transportation alternatives that modern cities embrace as a means of economic and environmental efficiency, then maybe I'll have more patience for the cries of those who truly MUST drive every day, and who should be among the vanguard of those calling for increases and improvements to public transportation in Lawrence.

If cities want to reduce congestion, cities must discourage people from using their cars. Parking lots and garages (like widening of roads, cheap gas, and token fees for tags and licenses) encourage use of cars without recouping the costs that unnecessary drivers create for everyone else--costs of efficiency, pollution, infrastructure (no current roads program could possibly keep up with the overuse of roads in our city without massive yearly increases in budget outlay!), health, etc. This system of hidden, unrecovered costs puts the use of the personal auto among the most subsidized activities in our nation--far more than the T, than Amtrak, or any other public transit system in existence. And until our own T is optimized and the city, schools and KU learn to say "NO" to the waste of the single-occupancy driver, congestion will increase, roads will continue to crumble, and more and more time and money will be wasted. Other than that, nothing will change.

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blue73harley 6 years, 7 months ago

Um, salad., the article focuses on traffic at BOTH high schools thus the plural in the title. (Sorry, just wanted to be a little sanctimonious today. I certainly hope it does not diminish my point in any way.)

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lunacydetector 6 years, 7 months ago

poor planning of our schools resulted in not enough parking. there wouldn't be congestion if parents didn't have to double park to pick up their kids. i'm sure this applies to LHS and freestate. the school busses block the streets and parking lots as well. but hey, at least the teachers have a place to park to go along with their half day wednesdays every week. must be nice to work 9 months a year, get every holiday off, and have a half day in the middle of the week so the children in our community can become unsupervised latch key kids. give the teachers some more money, dammit - or did they get a half day because the administration didn't want to pay them more? hmmmm. regardless, the parking is a joke.

a free flow of traffic by having more parking would solve the congestion problem.

it ain't rocket science.

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logrithmic 6 years, 7 months ago

Centrist,

Thanks for lying about my positions!

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hawkperchedatriverfront 6 years, 7 months ago

Another reason why Lawrence High should have been turned into a junior high replacing South and Central. A new Lawrence High could have been built on the far east side of town , planned for expansion, etc and etc and etc.

Short sighted school board. Tons of money poured into Central and a new South and both facilties are still not in the right place. Ejits on school board and voters as well.

Watch for more expenses for South and Central.

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mom_of_three 6 years, 7 months ago

My LHS senior does take the T home from school, but I drop her off on my way to work.
But the T doesn't drive by LHS at a convenient time for more students to take advantage of it. My student has to walk to 23rd street to catch the bus home. It's a little inconvenient sometimes, but it's better than other options, which is walking all the way home.

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salad 6 years, 7 months ago

"Um salad Lawrence High DOES require a parking permit, they enforce the permit with tickets and boots (cost $50 to get off), only seniors are guaranteed parking permits and then the rest go to a handful of juniors by way of lottery. 90% of juniors and 100% of sophomores aren't allowed in the lot at all."

Well good for them, but what about Freestate? They're the ones the article focuses on. LHS is not a problem in my view, and parking in the surrounding neighborhoods is not illegal. Otherwise, ride the bus, ride with friends, or walk, and lose the sanctimony Mikeyj, it diminishes your point.

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Centrist 6 years, 7 months ago

Log ... WTF? First it was KDOT's fault those crazy women ran those guys over the other day, and now parking in Lawrence is KDOT's fault somehow too?

... are you an ex-KDOT disgruntled employee or something??

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75x55 6 years, 7 months ago

Ah yes - nothing like 'good design' in action. [/sarcasm off]

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maxcrabb 6 years, 7 months ago

Oh, thank goodness the Journal World brought attention to the problems at 19th And Louisiana!

I would never have figured it out myself. Good thing this hasn't been a problem before!

Yep...

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Richard Heckler 6 years, 7 months ago

6th and Wakarusa is one more westside intersection to avoid... like all intersections on 6th west of Iowa .....kinda like 31st and Iowa.

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mikeyj 6 years, 7 months ago

Um salad Lawrence High DOES require a parking permit, they enforce the permit with tickets and boots (cost $50 to get off), only seniors are guaranteed parking permits and then the rest go to a handful of juniors by way of lottery. 90% of juniors and 100% of sophomores aren't allowed in the lot at all.

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salad 6 years, 7 months ago

I used to live down the street from LHS, and we never had problems with HS students, it was jerks leaving KU BB games that would cause problems. One guy actually drove through our side yard to get to the alley to try reduce his wait in traffic! After that I put a fence in. The problem with HS parking is simple: require a parking permit, enforce the permit law with tickets and towing, reserve permits for juniors & seniors: problem solved. School officials will never do this, however, because they would actually have to do their jobs and stick up for something and handle parent complaints. Better to spend $500,000 and pave over another 5 acres and build a new street.

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blue73harley 6 years, 7 months ago

"NO!!!!!! NO more parking at LHS."

I bet the folks that actually own homes in the neighborhood surrounding LHS would strongly disagree with this opinion. Just a guess but I bet about 60% of the students driving to LHS have to park in the neighborhoods. Parking at the LHS has NOTHING to do with improving public transit. You would have to somehow "improve" the mindset of a teenager to ride the bus! I'm sure Mr Grimpeur LOVED to ride the bus to school...or did you walk 5 miles uphill both ways?

And, of course no extra parking is needed at FSHS, they already have plenty.

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macon47 6 years, 7 months ago

i think it is a bit wasteful that ever kid that goes to school has to have a car to get there?

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logrithmic 6 years, 7 months ago

From the story:

"Traffic is worse now, Morel said, because DEVELOPMENT near Free State has already made for slower and more crowded traffic at the beginning and end of the day."

There, that's better.

From the story:

"The traffic patterns in the area were chief concerns during the discussion of building a Wal-Mart at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive. The proposal cleared the City Commission last month, and the Kansas Department of Transportation and city engineers in an analysis said the roads were built to handle the increase in traffic."

Ah, KDOT, KDOT, KDOT, otherwise known as the Kansas Department of Transportation - the final word in road safety.... NOT.

(Not sure why the Journal World continues to screw with capital letters, but I put "KDOT" in all caps and the word "development" in all caps in the first paragraph. Oh well... this would call for sarcasm but my comment would be deleted if I said anything).

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grimpeur 6 years, 7 months ago

...senior Michael Bolden knows that parking spaces are a premium in central Lawrence near the Kansas University campus.

"We do need more parking," he said.

NO!!!!!! NO more parking at LHS. It is completely ridiculous (yet somehow entirely predictable) that an article about increasing congestion includes this statement, which reflects the mindset of not only drivers but also entities like KU Endowment, which invited another 1500 motorists to drive right into the center of town with its west campus lot.

A moratorium on parking on KU's campus, at LHS and FSHS, and at LMH until public transit is improved!

Don't like congestion and crumbling roads? Then don't contribute to them!

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plumberscrack 6 years, 7 months ago

Involving kids, smart guy?......That's what I thought, shut up!

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honestone 6 years, 7 months ago

I predict that there will be a serious accident at 6th and Mass. I predict that there will be a serious accident at 9th and Iowa I predict that there will be a serious accident at 31st and Iowa I predict that there will be a serious accident at 23rd and Harper wow...who would of imagined

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plumberscrack 6 years, 7 months ago

If you think it's bad now, just wait until Walmart is being built and when it's finished and the customers are hurrying to get those specials.

I predict that there will be a serious wreck at 6th & Wakarusa in the near future!

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