Cape officials look for way to ease traffic congestion around middle school

Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Central Middle School safety patrol members monitored crosswalk foot traffic at the corner of Caruthers Avenue and Thilenius Street after school let out Tuesday. (Kit Doyle)

Worried that careless students could be hit by oncoming vehicles during dismissal, the Cape Girardeau School Board is considering options to alleviate traffic congestion around the middle school.

A plan presented by Patrick Morgan, director of administrative services, calls for resurfacing two unused tennis courts between the middle school and junior high to use for off-street bus loading.

Currently nine buses park along Caruthers Avenue. Parent parking is allocated along the intersecting Thilenius Street, but often parents have to seek overflow parking, causing children to cross the street. Students serving as safety patrol officers monitor the crossing, but parents say they have seen children dash across the road at undesignated areas and have witnessed near-accidents.

Additionally, parent Angela Boulden said a stop sign placed in the middle of the road at the intersection is sometimes missed. "One time a child just darted out. It's a heavy traffic area. A car coming didn't see the stop sign. I had to honk my horn," she said.

"This is the most busiest part and the hardest," said school safety patrol officer Tyler Thornton, 10.

In the plan, buses would all depart at the same time and a traffic director on Caruthers Avenue would be needed. Afterward, the lot would be opened for parking for after-school events such as track meets or football games. Morgan developed the proposal with the two school principals and transportation provider LaidLaw.

The proposal presented at the school board meeting Monday was tabled after several members expressed concern the asphalt slated for use would suffer too much wear and tear as buses had to turn around in the tight space. The proposal has the buses coming and exiting the same way after an existing drive way is expanded.

"I don't think this is going to work. It is going to cause more problems. I think we'll just be throwing money away," said board member Laura Sparkman. Morgan acknowledged that problems can arise, especially with asphalt, when buses have to turn around.

Martha Hamilton suggested adding an additional driveway for exit onto Caruthers Avenue, creating a semicircle. This would raise the estimated cost of $41,695, and a portion of a covered walkway between the middle school and the junior high would need to be removed.

ASA, which did asphalt work for the district last year, provided the estimate for the original proposal.

Kyle McDonald, vice president of the board, asked about using a surface other than asphalt, such as concrete.

Morgan said he would have to look into all the suggestions before reconvening with the board.

Parents and teachers expressed relief there is a plan in the works, regardless of the specifics.

"There are 50 to 60 children crossing the street every day and it's scary. Any idea that we can get going that parents can cooperate with and we can keep kids out of the street is good," said Dale Williams, the in-school suspension officer and sponsor of the school safety patrol.

335-6611, extension 123

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