Bester traffic solutions rehashed

April 23, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

Past solutions to traffic congestion problems at Bester Elementary School were presented by Washington County Public Schools officials to the Hagerstown City Council Tuesday.

"From where the staff sits today, we don't think there's a safety issue," said William Blum, the school system's chief operating officer, during a joint meeting between the Washington County Board of Education and the City Council.

Blum told the council that the School Board has been working to ease traffic problems for more than five years at the 72-year-old school, which sits near the busy intersection of South Potomac Street and Memorial Boulevard.


He said the School Board is talking to City of Hagerstown staff to seek out other solutions to the congestion, which might include the use of one of the city's roads or alleys near the school.

Blum said about five years ago, the City of Hagerstown installed a programmable traffic light, which caters to parents entering and exiting the school, at the Memorial Boulevard intersection. He said the light recently was readjusted to suit the school's late dismissal.

Councilman Kristin Aleshire asked whether the longer school day increased traffic congestion at the downtown school.

Dennis McGee, the school system's director of facilities management, said he thought the longer day may have aggravated the school's traffic problems, but he said there has been no significant difference in traffic since the programmable light was installed.

Dosha Green, a parent in the Bester district, spoke up and said traffic is constant between 3:15 and 5 p.m., and parents still are backed up into the school's parking lot.

Blum said around the same time the programmable light was installed, the School Board added an additional traffic loop in which parents can pick up their children.

McGee added that the School Board repainted the school's crosswalks, provided teachers with orange crossing guard vests and recently installed four additional traffic signs around the drop-off loops to direct a new traffic flow.

"Many of our older schools have similar congestion problems," Blum said.

"I think this is more of a quality-of-life issue than it is a physical demand issue," Aleshire said.

Green asked why Bester Elementary can't get another bus. The school has two buses, holding a total of about 100 children, that serve the school's more than 500 students, Chris Carter, the school system's director of transportation, has said.

School Board President Bernadette Wagner told Green that time was running out to talk about Bester on the agenda for the joint meeting.

"This is a public meeting, isn't it?" Green asked.

Wagner said public comment is reserved for School Board meetings. Citizens' participation wasn't listed on the agenda for Tuesday's joint meeting.

Patricia Abernethy, the school system's deputy superintendent for instruction, said after the meeting that factors like busy roads without sidewalks factor into the board's decisions to allow students to be picked up within a mile of their school.

Blum said he will discuss the problems other county schools are having with traffic at the School Board's May 20 meeting. At that time, he will estimate the costs for any possible solutions.

Discuss Bester traffic problems

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