The traffic issues at the Augusta Middle School has been a concern for many years and continues to be so for school administrators, parents, city officials and the Augusta Board of Education.
Last spring the USD 402 Board of Education entered into an agreement with MKEC Engineering to conduct a traffic study and develop options for providing a safer and less congested area in front of the Augusta Middle School in the mornings for student drop offs and in the afternoon when the students are picked up.
Board members Bob McCalla and Bill Rinkenbaugh, along with other district personnel have met with MKEC engineer Larry Henry and Crossland Construction representatives to discuss the AMS traffic issues.
“There are lots of things to consider and we shouldn’t get hung up on big expensive things. Our focus is to provide a safer area in front of the middle school during drop off and pick up times,” Superintendent Black said. He also reminded the board that when the construction at the middle school is complete the buses will be loading and unloading on the west side, behind the campus.
The options that appear to address some of the safety issues include:
1. To change the crosswalk from being diagonal to being perpendicular from Broadway across State, and
2. to remove the on street parking south of the crosswalk on the west side of State and make this area a drop off and pick up zone. That would mean the loss of 15 parking spaces.,
3. once the new construction has progressed to the point that the buses can unload and load behind AMS they will be required to head south on State as they exit Clark, and
4. there has been discussion on the use of crossing guards at Broadway and State, and possibly Clark and State. A version of a crossing guard would also be helpful if a pull off lane is established.
Other options include changing the directions of Cliff Dr., extending Clark to the west and down the hill behind the school or building a private drive behind AMS and down the hill to Clark, with a gate that could be closed at specific times.
“You can’t make Cliff Dr. a one-way south because the bank location requires a two-way, “ Black stated.
He also explained that the east Clark St. to west Clark St. option would entail a major fill requirement and present a drainage problem. The option would also be very expensive.
Black explained that with the new Wal-Mart that many drivers might not want to use 7th St. and attempt to use the Clark to Clark St. as a by-pass situation.
Page 2 of 2 - “You have to keep asking what would be accomplished and how much relief would it bring to State St.?” Black advised.
“Why would we need to pay for work on Cliff Dr. and not the City?” board member Andy Hall asked.
Black told Hall that the options would be taken to the city, but that they would probably need to be “improvements” for the city to be considered.
Board President Bob McCalla said, “Controlling the drop offs is most important. Cross guards would help control the drop offs. It’s a miracle more accidents haven’t happened...We need to look at a quick fix for this situation,” BOE president Bob McCalla said.
“It’s not going to change until we educate the parents,” Andy Hall stated.
McCalla responded, “You put a police car there and start ticketing the illegal drop offs and it would stop. Parents continue to drop off wrong...I keep having a nightmare about it. It’s not safe. The street is so wide that a stop sign won’t work.”
AMS Principal Eileen Dreiling thanked the board members for the study, “Thank you for this conversation. The safety of the kids is the priority and this study is very important.”
Board member Larry Winter weighed in, “A cross guard would help more than anything.”
McCalla assured Dreiling and the board that the discussion would continue and hopefully a resolution would be reached.
“I don’t recommend any action tonight. We need to have a formal conversation with City administrators. There are steps to take before any action. I hope to have a recommendation for you next month and by then the buses will be running behind the building,” Superintendent Black advised.