D51 walking concerns: besides safety, traffic could back up

By: Taylor Temby Email
By: Taylor Temby Email

Monday is the first day of school and there's a good chance many parents will be driving their kids to school, especially now that new bus routes have put more students in 'walk to school' zones.

Every school in the district has a drop off zone, but with more students walking and potentially more parents dropping students off, some worry these zones will become even more congested and cause more potential problems.

Heavy traffic, big cars and speed. With no bus this year, Brad Chitwood's two young kids would have to cross busy Patterson Road to get to Orchard Avenue Elementary School.

"I think that's one of the busiest roads we have here in the Valley," Chitwood said of Patterson Road. "We're in the process of trying to get with other parents and figure out a way to get the kids to school and even carpool if we have to."

Others like him are looking at a similar solution now that their children are within School District 51’s new walking boundaries, but driving could cause new concerns.

"[Orchard Avenue] was busy last year when they had bussing, I can't imagine what it's going to be like this year,” Chitwood said.

It's an easy walk to Orchard Avenue Elementary for Heather Wicks' children, as they only have to meander across a crosswalk to get to class, but she knows just how busy the school can get. If more parents are driving their students to school, there is worry for student safety and traffic build-ups at drop off zones.

“You have double-traffic in double lanes where it's not really supposed to, and that reduces visibility and I’m really concerned for the kids' safety," Wicks said.

In addition to the traffic, Wick’s neighborhood is packed full of parents who park their cars and wait for their children to get out of school. Other neighbors in the area say some block their driveways and others will park in the alleyways behind their homes, neither of which are safe or allowed. Wicks says many children in the area use those alleyways to walk home, and these cars produce additional dangers when so many vehicles are trying to get in and out to pick up their students.

The school district also acknowledges these walking changes will affect many, but says the community can come together to help alleviate some of these potential problems. "It's just respecting each of those individual areas and what their purpose is, and making sure traffic is flowing the way that it's supposed to."

The school district says parents picking up and dropping off kids should go through these zones to keep traffic flowing -- they shouldn't park and wait for their students to get in the car—and if you need to park, use the lot.

Local law enforcement says it will do its best to patrol school areas, but officers can't be everywhere at once.

"Drivers just need to have a little bit of patience if they are going through those areas where there is that increased school traffic," Grand Junction police spokesperson Kate Porras said.

Since these students need to get to school whether by bus, car or foot, it seems the community will just continue to search for solutions.

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