traffic concerns around schools

Candidate Question: Traffic Concerns Around Schools

in Candidate Corner/Candidate Questions/Featured/Government and Politics/Public Safety/Schools

The Liberty Lake Gazette asked all 10 candidates the following question at the same time via email. The candidate responses are in the order they replied. Click on a candidate name to view their full profile.

This question came from a Liberty Lake Gazette reader.

What has been and can be done to mitigate traffic concerns in surrounding neighborhoods and intersections regarding before and after school periods. Concern over traffic flow has increased since opening Liberty Creek and dangerous vehicle and pedestrian interactions are daily worries. One accident is unacceptable regarding kids walking to and from school.

Please elaborate on what can and should be done for Country Vista/Molter intersection, all along Boone and crossing with Country Vista and Molter, and the residential streets north of the two schools?

Cris Kaminskas campaign photo
Cris Kaminskas

Public Safety is, and should be, everyone’s top priority – especially the safety of our children. It is mine.

Road Markings – Pavement markings and school zone traffic signs obviously play a significant role in improving everyone’s safety because it provides necessary information to drivers when they are in the area. Better road markings such as “SCHOOL ZONE” and “END SCHOOL ZONE” painted on the pavement at the beginning and end of the zones will make drivers more aware.

Signage – The only school zone sign that sticks out among the others in the areas of our two elementary schools is the speed feedback sign on Molter just south of Country Vista. I have heard some people say that the sign on Molter can be confusing as it says 20 MPH when children present. Any child, any time? Just during before/after school? Why not simplify the message and have the sign read “WHEN FLASHING” along with the hours it is in effect? One of these needs to be installed at the start of each zone on Boone, Country Vista, and Molter. Not only are the flashing lights a great way to grab the attention of drivers, but they also improve the overall effectiveness of speed signs during bad weather and in the winter when we have shortened daylight hours.

Crossing Guards – Crossing guards serve an integral role in school zone safety. When my son walked to LLES from our home a block and a half away, I didn’t worry about him crossing Boone because there was a crossing guard. I trust these women and men more than I would any sign or painting on the ground. WE NEED MORE! The more eyes we have on drivers and the more eyes we have on our kids, the better. They also provide a daily lesson to our kids about how to safely cross the road. It’s a lot harder to ignore a crossing guard in a bright orange vest with stop poles than it is a flashing beacon when the kids are going to/from school.

What has been and can be done to mitigate traffic concerns in surrounding neighborhoods and intersections regarding before and after school periods. Concern over traffic flow has increased since opening Liberty Creek and dangerous vehicle and pedestrian interactions are daily worries. One accident is unacceptable regarding kids walking to and from school.

Please elaborate on what can and should be done for Country Vista/Molter intersection, all along Boone and crossing with Country Vista and Molter, and the residential streets north of the two schools?

Holly Woodruff campaign photo
Holly Woodruff

I live one block north of Liberty Lake Elementary so I’m very familiar with the traffic issues before and after school. With only 6 bus routes serving the two elementary schools, the school district must expect many students to either walk/bike/scooter to school or ride in a vehicle. I’m not a traffic expert. What can we do to assure the safety of those students traveling by means other than a vehicle and keep traffic moving at a reasonable rate?

In my observation, the traffic backup due to the schools is for a short amount of time. Usually by 3:30 PM traffic has cleared out at Boone and Molter and Country Vista and Molter. Mornings the traffic takes a little longer to clear since the drop-off of students is more spread out, but the busiest time seems to be 8:30-9 AM (9:30-10 on Thursdays). The crossing guards do an excellent job of getting the students across streets safely. Drivers can factor in the extra time it will take to stop for students crossing the street on Boone and Country Vista (Boone especially). The city can add more speed limit signs like the ones recently installed on Malvern at the suggestion of a Malvern resident. Speeding around the schools and school buses is unacceptable. A short term solution for the traffic backups at the Molter intersections might be to have a traffic control officer assist with the flow of traffic. Such officers might come from SCOPE or other volunteers, and they should have training in how to manage traffic. A long term solution might be roundabouts (not sure about rights-of-way to get the needed space, though), 4-way stops (but they often create their own traffic issues), or traffic signals that activate red, yellow, green only during the busy times (they could flash red for the cross roads and yellow caution for Molter the rest of the time). A traditional signal could also be activated for events at Pavillion Park to assist with traffic control.

Can the city work with the school district to find a way to increase bus ridership and/or add routes? Are there students who could ride a current bus but don’t, and why don’t they? Is there a way to promote more carpooling for those who drive their students to school? Working with the school district, PTO, and other stakeholders including those of us who live near the schools can generate common sense solutions that reduce the number of vehicles and increase the safety of the students. Thank you for the opportunity to answer this question.

What has been and can be done to mitigate traffic concerns in surrounding neighborhoods and intersections regarding before and after school periods. Concern over traffic flow has increased since opening Liberty Creek and dangerous vehicle and pedestrian interactions are daily worries. One accident is unacceptable regarding kids walking to and from school.

Please elaborate on what can and should be done for Country Vista/Molter intersection, all along Boone and crossing with Country Vista and Molter, and the residential streets north of the two schools?

Annie Kurtz campaign photo
Annie Kurtz

The issue at Country Vista/Molter is near and dear to my heart as I sat in traffic two times a day for pick up and drop off of my child at Liberty Creek over the past two years. I noticed a marked improvement in traffic flow in the spring when the crossing guards changed their practice to helping kids cross Country Vista, letting traffic flow, and then getting the kids across Molter separately. Previously, both lanes of traffic were blocked as kids crossed both streets. Installation of the flashing pedestrian signs, crossing guards, SCOPE and LLPD officers being visible during peak times have all helped raise awareness and likely lessened risk during before and after school periods; however, I think we can do more as a community.

In 2016, the City engaged in a traffic study to identify deficiencies in the current and future transportation infrastructure and identify solutions to improve traffic flow throughout key congestion areas. Here are a few of the key limitations I noticed specific to this question when I reviewed the traffic study:

  1. Intersections of Country Vista/Molter, Boone/Country Vista and Boone/Molter were either not identified or not evaluated in the study.
  2. Peak hours were identified as 7:15-8:15 AM and 4:15-5:15 PM, excluding any data on the school zones during school arrival and dismissal (school begins at 9 AM and is dismissed at 3:15).
  3. The study was completed in August of 2016 thereby excluding any data relevant to school traffic impact throughout other corridors of the city.
  4. At the time the traffic study was completed, Liberty Creek Elementary was not complete and serving students.
  5. Mission in the River District was evaluated; however, that data is now obsolete with the addition of Selkirk Middle School.

The key things we need in our school zones are:

  1. Safe crossing passages for the kids,
  2. Traffic to move safely through the corridor, and
  3. Alternate routes for traffic during peak times.

Here are some of my ideas to improve traffic flow and safety in the short and long term particularly around Molter/Country Vista/Boone as the focus of the question:

  1. Work with both elementary schools to ensure that crossing guards are guiding children across one street (allowing traffic to flow in the same direction) and then guiding kids across the other (allowing traffic to flow in the same direction).
  2. Encourage residents who walk or run in those areas at peak times to wait and follow the guidance of the crossing guards so they are not stepping out into traffic, confusing motorists, and slowing down the traffic flow during the peak times of the day.
    1. I would propose community outreach through the media, social media, and possibly mailings to residents to educate both motorists and pedestrians about safety.
    2. I would also propose café signs at the intersections that asked adults to wait for crossing guard directions with the focus on safety of pedestrians during this busy time.
  3. I would request the City invest in an additional traffic study to be done in conjunction with CVSD for the area around the schools.
    1. The recent traffic study was completed and based on data prior to the opening of Liberty Creek Elementary. The City is working with CVSD on a traffic study for the area around Ridgeline High School—it seems relevant to collaborate and include the other areas of the City that are significantly impacted by CVSD schools.
    2. This collaboration should also include the area around Selkirk Middle School in the River District.
    3. It would be important to assess whether the modeling assumptions outlined in the traffic study are representative of the significant growth that Liberty Lake has experienced in order to get the most accurate study from which to base our future planning and expenditures.
    4. Peak hours in these areas should be expanded to include the hour before and after school dismissal in addition to evening traffic (previous study was limited to 7:15-8:15 and 4:15-5:15) for purposes of the traffic study.
    5. The previous traffic study was conducted in August, and any new study should be conducted when school is in session as a true reflection of our community.
    6. Read the traffic study here: https://www.libertylakewa.gov/DocumentCenter/View/2583/City-of-Liberty-Lake—Network-Analysis?bidId=
  4. Identify and suggest alternate routes during peak school times to residents in the neighborhoods to reduce traffic congestion in those areas.
    1. In the absence of a traffic study I would want to engage residents, LLPD, CVSD, and other stakeholders to evaluate the pros and cons of these different potential solutions keeping in mind right of way regulations and limitations;
      1. Detours for through traffic during peak hours along Molter to support traffic flow and school crossing safety;
      2. Altering the directional flow of traffic around the school zones during peak times to support traffic egress in and out of the school areas particularly Molter, Country Vista, Boone and Mission areas;
      3. Limiting left turns during peak hours on Molter, Boone, and Country Vista; and
      4. Traffic signals to be installed at Country Vista/Molter.
  5. I would recommend the Council evaluate lowering the speed limit along Molter to 25 to encourage motor vehicles to slow down ahead of the school zone to increase safety.

It is likely that other candidates will have some innovative and different ideas to address this issue. If elected, I would look forward to hearing their ideas and working together to come up with the best short and long term solution(s) to help keep our kids safe while walking to school.

What has been and can be done to mitigate traffic concerns in surrounding neighborhoods and intersections regarding before and after school periods. Concern over traffic flow has increased since opening Liberty Creek and dangerous vehicle and pedestrian interactions are daily worries. One accident is unacceptable regarding kids walking to and from school.

Please elaborate on what can and should be done for Country Vista/Molter intersection, all along Boone and crossing with Country Vista and Molter, and the residential streets north of the two schools?

Phil Folyer campaign photo
Phil Folyer

Public safety is always a top priority. However, we need to be realistic about how we address concerns that are concentrated in specific corridors. Installing crosswalk flashers or providing guards at every crosswalk is not feasible. Education and awareness are possible alternatives. Police presence @ peak usage would remind our motorist to follow the rules of the road. Public reminders thru schools, advertising and social media are just a few ways to remind us all of the situation in and around our schools. We can use our city engineer and police to evaluate areas that may need specific improvement and act on the recommendation provided.

What has been and can be done to mitigate traffic concerns in surrounding neighborhoods and intersections regarding before and after school periods. Concern over traffic flow has increased since opening Liberty Creek and dangerous vehicle and pedestrian interactions are daily worries. One accident is unacceptable regarding kids walking to and from school.

Please elaborate on what can and should be done for Country Vista/Molter intersection, all along Boone and crossing with Country Vista and Molter, and the residential streets north of the two schools?

Shane Brickner

When the traffic study was done for our city, it was only done for major thoroughfares. Residential roads were not looked at. When I asked why, I was told that they were not a priority. Numerous times at city council meetings, I have proposed working cohesively with our city staff, our Chief of Police and Fire Department to create a master traffic and pedestrian safety plan that would help us to prioritize and address these issues through a list of guidelines and regulations to identify where we need more enforcement, traffic modifications, speed reader signs, and pedestrian crossing improvements like flashing beacons.

My daughter has attended that school, and has traveled these roads on a daily basis. I have sat in my police car on Malvern and Boone to help monitor and control that area. I am very aware of these concerns, and I’ve seen firsthand how dangerous these areas can be. It will be vital to include these areas, along with areas in the River District, as priorities in our master traffic and pedestrian safety plan so we can address these issues promptly.

What has been and can be done to mitigate traffic concerns in surrounding neighborhoods and intersections regarding before and after school periods. Concern over traffic flow has increased since opening Liberty Creek and dangerous vehicle and pedestrian interactions are daily worries. One accident is unacceptable regarding kids walking to and from school.

Please elaborate on what can and should be done for Country Vista/Molter intersection, all along Boone and crossing with Country Vista and Molter, and the residential streets north of the two schools?

We have a Radar Speed sign and Flashing Beacon lights on Molter. We have made sure that the area is posted School Zone. We have had continued SCOPE and Police coverage during our before-and-after school hours since becoming a city 18 years ago. We have restricted traffic movement on Boone during before-and-after school pick up. We have worked with Ben Small and the Central Valley School District to insure the best possible outcome and taken their advice on how traffic should be handled around the schools. Going forward, we will be erecting another Radar Speed sign on Country Vista by Liberty Creek and we are exploring how we can use cameras around the school zone to be the “eyes” when officers are not present.

What has been and can be done to mitigate traffic concerns in surrounding neighborhoods and intersections regarding before and after school periods. Concern over traffic flow has increased since opening Liberty Creek and dangerous vehicle and pedestrian interactions are daily worries. One accident is unacceptable regarding kids walking to and from school.

Please elaborate on what can and should be done for Country Vista/Molter intersection, all along Boone and crossing with Country Vista and Molter, and the residential streets north of the two schools?

Dg Garcia campaign photo
DG Garcia
I wish I had a quick and straightforward answer, but unfortunately, I admit that I do not. I have a grandchild who goes to the elementary school in Liberty Lake, and many friends whose grandchildren attend Liberty Lake schools as well. Although I am with my grandchild in the mornings, many other children travel to school independently, on their own. I would like to answer more specifically as it relates to the original question. However, I feel compelled to explain my answer more broadly as the same type of concern is widely held by the entire resident structure.

Failure to recognize the importance of driving slower on residential streets and in school zones is a problem in Liberty Lake. But for the most part, most drivers are respectful of the road and understand the importance of sharing it—with pedestrians—especially with children crossing on their way to school, with or without a parent or guardian.

Many children who walk to school appear to be at the highest risk for a significant traffic-related incident. Our policy-makers need to ask a few more questions. Are they doing everything possible in the area of pedestrian safety? If so, then they must ask: Why are people still so concerned? What more can and should be done?

What are some possible solutions?

I have a few suggestions that I would ask to be considered that may add to the rest of the community’s ideas. Installing a safe-pace flashing radar sign on both sides of the road. Yes, even in a residential area, it may look odd, but it may save a life. Installing wide stripes that indicate pedestrian crossing more broadly, when a stop sign does not get the drivers attention—make it a striking red, yellow, blue, or green color to get their attention. Installing 4-way stop signs on all problematic streets. Changing the speed limit in those areas to 15 miles per hour during certain times of the day. Adding a traffic speed meter to record the speed of the vehicle so that law enforcement may cite them for violating the speed limit postings—by doubling the fine. Redirecting traffic at the beginning of the school day for the amount of time it takes for classes to begin and then again when school ends for the day. Adding temporary undulations to determine if that helps in slowing down the traffic to ensure safe pedestrian crossing. Continue to coordinate with the city, the school, and the police department on efforts to monitor and improve the conditions where necessary. Educate our children early and often. Ensure they understand the rules of the road—stop, look both ways, and cross only when it is safe to do so.

I realized that I have mentioned many ways to try to curb the rate of concern and find an alternative that may just be the ticket, as they say. Some of my suggestions may be a bit extreme or may have been tried before with little success. What is evident to me is that a broader conversation with all the stakeholders needs to happen, sooner rather than later, because the conversation continues and the concerns have not been eliminated.

The residents, policy-makers, engineers on staff, and law enforcement personnel, need to come to the table to discuss and determine the best way forward. Getting from here to there without becoming a statistic of the road is essential. Remember, the life we save could be that of one of our own.


No response: Dan Dunne, Bob Moore, Tom Stanley

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