Carson City helps schools with safer transportation routes, projects | NevadaAppeal.com
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Carson City helps schools with safer transportation routes, projects

By Jessica Garcia jgarcia@nevadaappeal.com

Reno transportation planning firm Headway Transportation LLC presented its Safe Routes to School draft master plan to the Carson City School Board demonstrating areas to improve walking and biking safety measures around some of the district’s public schools.

At the board’s July 14 meeting, Headway senior planner Cole Peiffer and transportation planner Kelly Norman made programmatic recommendations for six Carson City elementary schools and its two middle schools, Carson and Eagle Valley, after completing an analysis of traffic patterns.

Projects were divided into tiers, or focus areas, requiring certain amounts of intense capital work or funding, or they were based on impacts to population densities. Other projects also were classified as being more transformative in nature over time. These might not have been identified as having a strict timeline for completion, such as those meant to create a fully functional bicycle network across Carson City.

The process involved consultations with school principals, direct interviews with staff and surveys with parents and students from the middle schools, Carson City transportation officials and data collected from aerial drones watching auto, bike and pedestrian patterns before and after school hours. Transportation staff also observed pickup and dropoff routines to determine the best intersection, pathway and bus safety as well as vehicular speed on streets. The study took more than nine months to complete.

Peiffer told the board Headway also sought opportunities to bolster existing education programs for students involving safety and to increase safety awareness in general through incentives. Students might be more encouraged to adhere to safety rules around the schools through a “Golden Shoe” award or pizza parties and be more likely to engage with local law enforcement, he said.

Headway team members focused on walking and biking paths around the schools and maintained a 1-mile radius of its study including Bordewich-Bray, Empire, Fritsch, Fremont, Mark Twain, Seeliger, Carson and Eagle Valley.

Carson City transportation director Lucia Maloney told the Nevada Appeal on Tuesday the plan drew an excellent community response.

“This plan is really fantastic,” she said. “It takes the louder voice of the community and it really helps us look at the foundation, which was every single school has unique needs for safety. The ‘Quick Wins’ projects really identify some affordable but not time-consuming projects that could have an impact.”

Maloney added results from the parent surveys showed one of the more significant needs was for more rural bus stops along school sites where students are walking in the dark or standing along the side of the roads later in the year, and adding stops could make a difference. Installing flashing pedestrian beacons for drivers’ awareness also will be useful. A long-term need will be along South Saliman Road in front of Fremont Elementary School and to set up a multiuse path connecting Roop Street to Saliman to reduce walking distances for students.

Peiffer said another goal was to improve bus stop access and school boundaries for Eagle Valley Middle School, hoping to develop safe routes to direct students who would need to travel north instead of south as the campus is rezoned to include the population of incoming sixth graders, an adjustment approved by the school board earlier this year.

Trustee Richard Varner at the meeting also raised concerns about speeding vehicles along King Street in front of Bordewich-Bray.

“I’ve sat there four or five times and watched cars going 35 (mph) and they won’t slow down,” Varner said. “I think they should put speed trailers there to show the speed or put any kind of traffic or speed bumps that can be put in.”

Maloney said the aerial drones also were essential to determine traffic flows for the study.

“We did it during the peak times,” she said. “Cars were stopping and parents were walking across the street. It was done at the macro level; how did people get in and out of the school on King Street to say how are cars circulating and what if we reconfigure how cars are allowed to turn on and off King Street, where are people going to make real recommendations. There are a lot of kids there, so maybe it’s not about a crosswalk (at certain places), but maybe do we want to put it further down. We were really able to visualize it better.”

She also added the city staff is working on installing Americans with Disabilites Act transitions to ensure there will be ramps at sidewalk corners, bundling these city projects in what the school district is doing.

“I’m really excited, and I think it’s going to be a really great plan,” she said.

Norman at the board meeting said Western Nevada Safe Routes is collaborating with the Carson City Sheriff’s Office to identify areas like King Street for better enforcement. She added Western Nevada Safe Routes will be standardizing safety zone signs to remind drivers to slow down around schools.

“We had planned to come out on Wednesdays and hand out safety information and remind drivers to be safe,” Norman said. “It’s one of those programmatic engagement activities. Being safe in a school zone is incredibly important.”