Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

TOP STORY >>Traffic issue big concern for district

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

With Cabot’s population expected to be pushing 25,000 in the coming years, traffic congestion around Cabot’s 14 schools is a problem district officials are working on fixing.

“The traffic flow around the schools seems to be better,” Superinten-dent Dr. Tony Thurman said recently. “There is still a lot of congestion but this is due to the large number of vehicles around our school sites during drop-off and pick-up times.”
Last Wednesday morning at Cabot Junior High South, a ninth-grader was hit by a vehicle during student drop-off as she crossed Panther Trail in front of the school.

She exited a vehicle on the passenger side, walked behind the car, and was hit by an SUV as she crossed the street, not in a crosswalk. She was released from the hospital the same day and is doing fine, Thurman said.

According to witness statements, it appeared the 14-year-old stepped out between cars to cross the road, and not seeing the Chevy Blazer on her right, walked into the path of the SUV, which was moving at a slow rate of speed.

CJHS Principal Henry Hawkins said she was back at school the next day and besides from a few bumps and bruises, the accident scared her more than anything.

Occurring in front of the school, Hawkins said the accident has made student drop-off a bit better.

“The parents are more aware of what they need to do and our resource officer is now on that side of the school to monitor traffic,” Hawkins said. There are also new crosswalks on the west end of the campus, which Hawkins said were put in before the accident occurred, for students to get to the shopping center at Hwy. 89 and Panther Trail after school lets out.

He said they do have a crosswalk guard at that location now too. They are also in the process of brainstorming ideas of what else needs to be done in order to make sure an accident like this one, or worse, doesn’t happen again.

“We’re trying to decide if we need barriers to keep students from walking across the street or is there another viable solution,” Hawkins said.

Aside from last week’s accident, Hawkins said traffic congestion during drop-off and pick-up is doing better, especially compared to the first week or two of school.

“Parents have a routine now and they don’t all bombard us at the same time,” he said, adding some parents arrive earlier or later to try and avoid the congestion.

Before school started in August, the city and district worked together to alleviate the traffic congestion during the morning and afternoon when parents are dropping off and picking up children at school. However, the changes only worked at two of the three schools experiencing the worst congestion.

“We did work with the city on two locations, Southside Elementary and Cabot Middle School South, this summer, and those plans have worked well,” Thurman said. “We had more difficulty with Northside Elementary and continue to consider options.”
At Northside, city officials hoped to stack cars on E. Mountain Springs Road to keep them off Locust, but parents were told to go back to the old way until the city and district have built a loading area on the campus.

“Our pick-up times in the afternoon have improved steadily since the beginning of the school year,” Thurman said. “It’s also important to remember that congestion is worse and there are more vehicles dropping-off and picking-up when we have poor weather conditions, like rain,” he said. Jerrel Maxwell, Cabot’s director of public works, said E. Mountain Springs Road isn’t wide enough to have cars stopped on the shoulders while waiting to get on campus. Cabot schools worked with the city to build a new parking lot for about 40 employees, which took them out of the mix during rush hour.

The district also has approved building a loading area for 100 cars (the city will provide the labor and equipment and the district the materials), but work has not been started yet.