New schools traffic plan would have to meet standards
Approval of the Marietta City Schools levy proposal on Nov. 5 would mean construction of a new $85 million building complex on Washington State Community College property, requiring big changes to the district transportation system and a plan that won’t clog up traffic on two of the city’s arterial roads.
District operations manager Darrell Prim said Friday that putting all students in one location would take many of them outside the state-mandated “walking” zone. To qualify for bus service, elementary school students need to live at least one mile away from their school, and middle and high school students need to live at least two miles away, he said. The evenly-distributed school buildings place only about 50 percent of students far enough away from their schools for bus service, he said. If the new, consolidated campus goes up by the college, about 90 percent would be out of the walking zone and able to use the bus, he said.
Prim said he hasn’t done a complete study but it is certain that the bus service will need to be expanded.
“There are not going to be a whole lot of walkers,” he said. “We will probably need four more bus routes, and more than likely we will need more buses.”
The bus fleet now, he said, has 19 regular buses, three handicapped buses and five spares used when others are idled for maintenance or repairs, he said.
Although the schools are spread out, the buildings and their traffic entrances were designed 50 years or more in the past and not to contemporary standards for traffic.
“Traffic flow now is a big concern, like Marietta Middle School, it’s hard to get up that hill,” he said.
Marietta High School has entrances both near Colegate Drive and off Davis Avenue near busy Muskingum Drive, and it is not unusual for traffic to back up on Muskingum to the intersection of Colegate.
Joe Tucker is the city of Marietta engineer.
“I’ve had a couple of discussions with (Marietta City Schools) superintendent Will Hampton, and I told him that when the levy gets passed we can get into detail, but what I would expect from the school and their consulting firm would be to submit a traffic study,” Tucker said.
Such studies have to be done to rigid state specifications and can cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, which is why the school district hasn’t done one ahead of the levy.
Tucker said that whenever the city has a new development proposed, the developers are directed to the Ohio Department of Transportation highway access manual, which spells out requirements in detail.
The roads involved – Glendale Road and Colegate Drive – might require modifications to carry the added traffic, which would regularly occur during the staggered start and dismissal times at the school complex and occasionally during special events. Some residents have always expressed concerns that some of their property might be taken for that purpose.
“It’s very possible either road could need an extra lane, like an access lane or a deceleration lane,” Tucker said. “Also, if the entrance is too close to an intersection, that can be problematic, and there are engineering standards for that.”
Tucker said the district has provided preliminary sketches of what the access might look like, with possible entrances off Glendale and Colegate.
“If we see any adverse impacts, we would request countermeasures to improve the situation so that the level of service does not degrade for the traveling public,” he said. “We’ll look at arrival and dismissal, how it affects people’s daily commute. I’ve emailed Will Hampton some example studies for traffic.”
Tucker noted that the location of Fire Station No. 3 at the Colegate-Glendale intersection warrants special consideration, but the state has standards for offset of access roads from intersections.
Residents of the Colegate Drive and Glendale Road neighborhood already have raised concerns about the prospect of having all the district’s students arriving and leaving past their homes, and board of education vice president Russ Garrison noted at a meeting Wednesday afternoon that because it is new construction it should be possible to “capture” most of the traffic back-up on school property to minimize congestion on Colegate and Glendale.
Ray Stathers lives in the 800 block of Colegate and said Friday that schools already have an impact on traffic in front of his home.
“There’s already so much traffic on Colegate, and I can always tell when the high school and college let out,” he said. “I can’t imagine they could add much more.”
Stathers said the traffic, however, is not his primary concern about the levy.
“I just don’t like the idea of consolidating schools. I think the younger kids should be separate from the high school and college, they ought to go to a more community-based school,” he said. “I know they need buildings, but I think consolidation is more about saving money than improving education. It’s better when you have smaller schools.”
Edwin Flanders lives on Glendale Road, near where one of the entrances might be located, and owns other properties on Glendale.
“I fully support the consolidation of schools, and I have no concerns about the proposed location,” he said. “I do have concerns about the proposed entrances. One is on Glendale, right across from a property I own. What it boils down to is, whenever I go past Seventh and Putnam streets when the middle school lets out, I think about Glendale and Colegate becoming that kind of nightmare.”
Flanders said he thinks the proposed Glendale entrance might be too close to that intersection.
Ivin and Melissa Rohrer live in the 800 block of Colegate Drive.
“Ours is one of the first down from the intersection, and of course we’ve got concerns, but we really don’t know yet what the impact will be,” Ivin said Friday. “We don’t want big traffic jams in front of our house every morning and afternoon.”
He said that if the board wants to get traffic off those main roads, it might consider running an extension off the end of Mill Creek Road, which comes off Colegate farther north. He said he and his wife hike in the area, and it might be feasible for a new road to follow a trail parallel to I-77.
“That would get the traffic completely away, but we don’t know who owns all that,” he said.
Rohrer said he supports the levy.
“It makes sense to me to consolidate the schools and right-size things to the population we have now,” he said. “But I hope they will consider what happens if we have an increase in population.”
The district enrollment has declined by 40 percent since the existing schools were built.
The potential traffic impact of the schools will be discussed at a meeting of the Marietta City Council finance committee at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Tucker said, and Hampton is expected to be at that meeting, which is open to the public. The meeting will be held in room 110 in The Armory on Front Street.
Marietta City Schools levy transportation
• Single location will place more students beyond the “walking” zone.
• Will likely require more bus routes, buses and drivers.
• Traffic plan will have to be approved by city under standards set by the state.
• New construction has the advantage of being able to plan efficient traffic flow on school property.
• Traffic concerns will be discussed at a public meeting of the Marietta City Council finance committee at 6 p.m. Wednesday in room 110 of The Armory.
Sources: Marietta City Schools, City of Marietta.