Steamboat Springs Strawberry Park Elementary School officials implemented a new traffic plan for the campus's perpetually congested parking lot in September, but abandoned the plan Wednesday due to concerns from parents and bus drivers.
"I think the plan absolutely helped, but with winter approaching, we didn't think it would be in the best interests of anyone to continue it," said Rick Denney, director of facilities for the Steamboat Springs School District.
To help ease congestion that often stops traffic on the school's entrance and exit roads to Amethyst Drive, roads shared with Steamboat Springs Middle School, the September plan divided the one-way entrance road into three lanes for vehicles descending toward the parking lot.
Lanes designated by student grade levels currently direct parents to pick-up areas, but school bus drivers such as Bethany Aurin have told the Steamboat Springs School Board that the lanes are too narrow and a new traffic plan needs to be created.
"We are coming down that hill and with all that is going on, with the three lanes and people walking in front of us, something tragic is bound to happen," Aurin told the School Board in October.
With snow and winter conditions on the horizon, the district's director of transportation, Ed Dingledine, said it will be prudent to shut down the third lane to allow more room for school buses.
"It's a squeeze as we have it in there now," he said. "The big concern is that during icy weather, that the buses move in that lane with ease. We don't want them to damage cars, and with people walking around, the safety of the parents and students in that area is essential."
No phone zone
Denney, Dingledine and Strawberry Park Principal Brenda Barr said a new set of eyes is needed to study the problem.
"We've moved to hire a professional traffic consultant to develop something we currently don't have," Denney told the School Board on Monday. The district is negotiating a contract with traffic consultants Stolfus & Associates of Greenwood Village. District officials declined to give an estimated cost of the consulting until the contract is finalized.
"The purpose is to get any professional ideas to make sure traffic flows work," Barr said. "The safety of the children always comes first."
School Board member John DeVincentis said Monday that one of his biggest concerns as principal at Strawberry Park was that children routinely walk past vehicles to get into the school.
"Unless we can get those kids safely into the school, then I don't think any plan is good," he said. "I would suggest looking at an underpass or overpass. I've seen buses come down that hill sideways in the snow. My concern was always watching those kids coming across that intersection - even with crossing guards."
Denney said the consultants will provide a set of long-term and short-term proposals for the School Board to approve in the spring.
"It's never going to be a perfect situation," he said. A new plan "may be similar to what we have already or a radical change on what is going on out there."
As school officials wait for the consultant's recommendations, Barr advised parents to carpool, utilize the district's school bus system and use caution when dropping off or picking up students.
"It's a tight area with a lot of small children walking around," she said.
"Retain close attention, and please don't be using your cell phone."