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Despite Frustrating Delays--Police: Use BusesAnd Cut Congestion



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Despite Frustrating Delays––

Police: Use Buses

And Cut Congestion

By Andrew Gorosko

As the complexities of the revamped school busing schedule for the 2003–04 school year unfold, police say that there would be less traffic congestion near the schools, especially in the mornings, if more parents had their children ride school buses to school, instead of giving them rides in private autos.

On September 3, one week into the new school year, Police Chief Michael Kehoe urged that parents who now transport their children to school, instead have their children ride school buses to and from the schools. Increased school bus ridership would significantly decrease the traffic congestion that occurs on local roads in the mornings when parents’ vehicles are competing for road space with school buses and with commuting traffic, Chief Kehoe said. Some children who live near schools walk to school.

Parents are bearing the cost of school bus transportation through their local property taxes, so they should have their children take advantage of school busing, Chief Kehoe said.

The revamped school busing system, which employs a three-tier schedule instead of the previous four-tier schedule, has created a new set school busing dynamics, the police chief noted.

In the past, the town’s sole traffic agent would work at four different schools sequentially in the mornings, and also in the afternoons, directing traffic flow and serving as a pedestrian crossing guard. The traffic agent would work at St Rose School, Hawley School, Newtown Middle School, and Newtown High School.

The revamped bus schedule, however, now requires that there be two traffic agents because there are simultaneous school openings at the middle school and the high school, and also simultaneous openings at Hawley and St Rose schools, Chief Kehoe said.

Finding suitable people to work as traffic agents has been difficult, the police chief said. The job pays $10.90 per hour. Each of the two traffic agents would work approximately 15 hours per week. That 15 hours of weekly work is segmented, with traffic agents working approximately 90 minutes each morning and 90 minutes each afternoon on the days that schools are in session.

Police Captain Joe Rios said the town has hired one woman as a traffic agent, but she is unable to work a full schedule each week, due to other commitments.

For now, police are stepping into the breach to serve as traffic agents, as their schedule allows, Capt Rios said. The captain stressed, however, that the nature of police work involves responding to sporadic emergencies, so police are not always able to serve as traffic agents, he said.

Police are actively seeking people who want to work as traffic agents, Capt Rios said. Uniforms and training are provided.

Problem Areas

Chief Kehoe pointed to the traffic congestion that occurs in the mornings near Newtown High School as the largest single local school-related traffic problem.

At times, in the mornings, traffic on westbound Route 34 backs up from the high school to the Lone Oak Meadows residential subdivision, a distance of approximately one mile.

Also, there are extensive commuter traffic backups on the nearby Exit 11 off-ramp of Interstate 84.

In the center of town, there are morning traffic backups on Queen Street, Church Hill Road, and Glover Avenue, in the area where three schools are located.

Chief Kehoe said he has received commuter complaints contending that local traffic conditions near the schools have worsened this school year. Also, some parents have asked about the absence of traffic agents to serve as child crossing guards, he said.

In a recent letter to the state Department of Transportation (DOT), Chief Kehoe informed the state that installing a traffic signal at the intersection of Mile Hill Road, Queen Street, and Tinkerfield Road due to heavy school bus traffic there may be unnecessary.

The DOT had offered to install a traffic signal at that intersection in response to complaints that heavy school bus traffic there in the mornings made for hazardous conditions.

Chief Kehoe asked that the DOT hold the traffic signal offer in abeyance because the revamped school bus schedule for 2003–04 would likely make a traffic signal there unnecessary.

During the second half of last school year, approximately 30 school buses used that intersection just before the start of classes at the nearby Reed Intermediate School. That occurred because those buses first dropped off students at Newtown Middle School and then dropped off remaining students at Reed Intermediate School. The buses approached the intersection either from South Main Street or from Queen Street, posing congestion problems.

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