Study recommends turn lanes, other traffic safety measures on Southview Drive
Council hears traffic study results and building plans for new elementary school
MARSHALL — They were there for a city permit. But representatives of Marshall Public Schools also used their time at the Marshall City Council meeting on Tuesday to give council members an update on construction plans for a new elementary school.
Chris Ziemer, project director with ICS Consulting, a firm working with the school district, went over the results of a traffic study the school district conducted in May, and the planned traffic flow for school buses and parents dropping off children at the new school and Marshall Middle School. Parts of the recommendations call for a central left turn lane on Southview Drive, as well as a reduced school zone speed limit and a school crossing at Silvervine Drive.
The main reason MPS was before the council on Tuesday night was to seek conditional use permits for a building addition at Park Side Elementary, and for a new elementary school on land near MMS. City ordinances require conditional use permits for schools to be built in residential districts. In two separate votes, council members approved the permits.
However, most of the discussion at the meeting focused on the new elementary school.
“The concern is that traffic may affect the neighborhood, and because of that they conducted a traffic study,” said Ilya Gutman, assistant planning and zoning administrator for the city of Marshall.
“Last May before school actually let out, we conducted a traffic study of these 13 intersections just to get a count of how the middle school site works currently,” Ziemer said. The list included intersections along C Street, Saratoga Street, Southview Drive and Main Street, as well as entrances to the middle school parking lot. Ziemer said the intersections of Southview Drive and Silvervine Drive, Woodfern Drive and Southview Court were of interest because they were closest to where the new elementary school would be.
Based on the study, the proposed traffic flow would be to have a dropoff and pickup loop for parents at the intersection with Woodfern Drive, and a bus loop near Silvervine Drive. Both loops would enter and exit off of Southview Drive, and be long enough to try and cut down on the number of cars waiting on the street before and after school.
The traffic study recommended that school buses take a right turn-only route to drop students off at the new school and the middle school, Ziemer said. Buses should stop at the elementary school first, take a right turn out of the bus loop, turn right onto Saratoga Street, and turn right into the middle school lot.
The traffic study recommended the school district and the city take several different actions for when the new school opens, Ziemer said. MPS should send out educational materials for parents on how to safely drop off and pick up students. The city should also plan for some additional police presence for the first few weeks of the school year, to help enforce traffic until people get used to the new rules.
The traffic study also recommended that the school have a sidewalk or trail between the new elementary school and the middle school, so kids could safely travel between them. This would make it possible for parents to pick up their children in one location instead of going to both schools.
The recommendations also call for changes to the traffic flow on Southview Drive. Ziemer said a central left turn lane was recommended on Southview from Saratoga Street to Main Street. In order to do that, on-street bike lanes on Southview would have to be removed from school property, he said.
The study also recommended a school zone with speed limits reduced to 20 miles per hour when children are present, a school crossing with crossing guards at Silvervine Drive, and flashing school crossing beacons at Silvervine Drive and James Avenue.
Council members asked whether the intersection of Saratoga Street and C Street could become a three-way stop. Council member Russ Labat said a number of Marshall residents had approached him about the intersection.
“The traffic study was inconclusive as to whether anything further was needed,” Ziemer said. The traffic counts at the C Street/Saratoga intersection for most of the day didn’t warrant a three-way stop, although Ziemer said it could be studied further.
Labat also questioned whether the study would have different results during the warmer part of the year, when kids walk and bike to school.
“There’s a lot of difference between the month of May and October,” Labat said. “The traffic count, I would think would be considerably different.”
Dion Caron, director of business services for Marshall Public Schools, said it was a good question. However, kids also tend to ride the bus more during cold weather, which wouldn’t necessarily mean more vehicles on the street, he said.
“The flow on Saratoga works,” Caron said. “We’re no different from any other city with a school, and the traffic to it. The biggest thing is how many vehicles can we do for queueing off the street.”