School traffic patterns change to improve pedestrian safety

Lillie Hoffart, design coach

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Twice a day, five days a week, the area around the school resembles a major airport: cars and buses transport around  2,000 people to Aubry Bend and Southwest. Like an airport traveler in a mad dash for his or her gate, students and staff scramble to arrive at their class on time.

The return to school not only brought new students and classes, but a new traffic pattern. The drop-off lane was moved to the circle drive, the special education buses were given a new driveway and the other buses load and unload on a new side of the parking lot.

The reason for these changes is pedestrian safety. Students and teachers who parked in the south lot had to cross between cars in the drop-off lane last year, which could have led to injury.

Blue Valley Director of Design and Construction Scott Crain has been working on increasing the safety of Blue Valley traffic plans. He pointed out the potential dangers in the previous drop-off lane.

“It seemed like the most convenient place to do things, but there were pedestrians walking across traffic,” principal Scott Roberts said. “I had to look [Crain] in the eye and say, ‘You’re right — we do. Let’s try to make this better.’”

The solution was to move the drop-off lane into the circle drive in front of the school. New drop-off lanes were created in the north lot for the buses, and a new circle drive was made behind the performing arts hall for the special education buses.

There were some challenges created by the modifications. Cars in the drop-off lane have to queue side-by-side to limit the traffic on Quivira, then merge into one lane at the drop-off area. Also, the student parking lot now has one exit, as the second gate had to be closed during school hours as to not interfere with the drop-off lane.

In the previous drop-off lane, large windows faced the road so it was easy for students to watch for their ride. The windows facing the new lane are now farther back, so it will take adjusting for the students.

“I think the real test will be in the winter, because it is nice to stay inside, and I don’t know how that is going to work out this year,” sophomore Megan Flood said.

Also, because all the high school traffic is on the same road, some students have observed that the lines for the four-way stop have gotten longer.

“I have seen people on numerous occasions cut through the neighborhood to get to the school faster, which is actually kind of smart,” junior Jack Jennings said. “[The new drop-off line] has made it take a lot longer to get to school”

However, Roberts found that some of the anticipated issues do not affect the traffic as much as previously believed.

“The first few weeks, I was a little nervous, but now that we are more used to it, drop off times are taking no time at all,” Roberts said. “We are able to now have all of our traffic on Quivira and separate that traffic from 175th, which is a bonus for us. It has actually worked out pretty well now that parents are getting used to it.”

Roberts also plans to have the gates separating the parking lots opened for after-school events to allow drivers to easily get from one lot to another.

Although the new traffic flow can take a little longer,  Roberts said the change is worth the time.

“Frankly, I think pedestrian safety outweighs any little inconvenience,” Roberts said. “If it takes an extra 30 seconds, but we can make sure students and adults are more safe on campus, I think it’s worth the inconvenience.”