- Family Features
- Business Directory
- Gallery Of Homes
- Subscribe Now!
- Place A Classified Ad
- New! Digital e-Edition
Planning board eyes school traffic
Oct 05, 2012 5:00 pm
The Lebanon Planning Commission will hold a special called meeting next week to discuss whether it's feasible to allow traffic from Lebanon High School to exit the campus onto Hickory Ridge Road.
When the new Lebanon High School opened in August, residents voiced concerns about overflow traffic after school flowing in the residential neighborhood.
At that time, Lebanon Police Chief Scott Bowen fielded numerous calls from people who were not happy traffic was being directed onto Hickory Ridge Road via a gate that many residents of that neighborhood had understood would not be used by school traffic.
Speaking Thursday, Bowen said the situation isn't quite the same, but he is still concerned.
"There is a little bit of difference in what they're requesting this time. This time, it would be for parents only so inexperienced student drivers won't be using it," Bowen said. "Honestly, I still have a concern about it. I'm not an engineer, but I don't think that road was designed to handle that much traffic. I think they've asked for this to be a trial run, and the planning commission would have to agree to let them do that."
In a letter dated Sept. 26 from Lebanon Public Works Commissioner Jeff Baines to "interested citizens," he wrote "the Wilson County Schools director and staff have investigated options and improvements to eliminate the morning backup of traffic onto South Hartmann Drive. Various departments of the city have raised safety concerns regarding traffic stopped and backed up on South Hartmann Drive between approximately 7:15 and 7:45 a.m."
The letter also said the "school system's engineering consultant has reviewed the traffic patterns" and have proposed various modifications to Blue Devil Drive, campus traffic patterns and a school zone on South Hartmann Drive for one hour in the morning and afternoons that will be "implemented as soon as possible."
Baines said in light of the engineer's report, the county schools system has made a "formal request that parents who drop off children at the beginning of the school day be allowed to exit left only onto Hickory Ridge Road between 7:20 and 7:45 a.m."
Baines' letter said his offices understands that a school traffic officer "would be responsible for opening, closing and locking the gate at the designated times."
Bowen said he is worried about safety and keeping the promises made to residents on Hickory Ridge Road.
"I relayed my concerns to Jeff. I'm concerned with the volume," Bowen said. "The other problem is when they went through the planning process the neighbors were concerned about having this much traffic over there. That was the promise that was made. We'll see if the planning commission decides to change that."
Baines' letter also said Wilson County Schools Director Mike Davis is requesting this traffic plan be put in place on a trial basis through Dec. 31, and during that time traffic counts will be made to determine how many vehicles use this exit and the effect on Hickory Ridge Road and surrounding streets can be evaluated. Baines also said that the request included the assurance that the school traffic officer will be stationed at the exit on Hickory Ridge Road.
Bowen said residents on Hickory Ridge Road remember the promise made to them when the school's site plan was approved, and he remembers the calls his office fielded from them making their displeasure known when this issue came up in August.
Minutes from the March 23, 2008 Lebanon Municipal Regional Planning Commission show that the commission's approval of the school's site plan was dependent on that exit being used for emergencies only and any changes to that plan would only be with the approval of city officials.
Former Planning Commissioner Pam Black was on the commission in 2008 when the LHS site plan was approved. In August, she confirmed that the commission never intended for school traffic to use Hickory Ridge Road.
"We made those folks over there a promise, and so it'll be interesting to see how it goes," Bowen said. "The only thing I can do is speak to the public safety aspect of it. We have engineers who made these decisions or recommendations. Now it's up to the planning commission. I have expressed my concerns."
Davis said he requested the change because he, too, is concerned about safety, not just for students, but for everyone who travels on South Hartmann Drive when school traffic is heavy.
"Traffic is still backing up on South Hartmann, especially in the morning hours. There's a turn lane on that road, and traffic is backing up even past that turn lane and blocking one lane of South Hartmann," Davis said. "That is not a good thing."
He emphasized the limited times traffic would be allowed onto Hickory Ridge Road, and that those drivers would be parents, not students.
"If you open that back gate just to allow the parents who are dropping their kids off to move on through the campus and move off, allowing that traffic to exit for 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the afternoon, that act as a pop-off valve to let all that traffic move out quickly. Then you wouldn't have traffic backing up," he said.
Davis thinks if nothing is done, the backups on South Hartmann Drive are an accident waiting to happen.
"If we don't do this, there will be a story about a busload of kids or kids in a car being killed by a tractor trailer out there," he said. "They come down through there and they don't realize that four lane highway has one lane blocked because it's backed up with people turning into the school. It is a safety precaution for everybody."
Davis said the proposed solution is the best one traffic engineers came up with in order to make it safer for everyone on the road.
"It would let the traffic flow a lot more smoothly," he said. "That is the best solution we can find."
The Lebanon Planning Commission will consider this request at the public special called meeting Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.
Staff writer Mary Hinds may be reached at 444-3952, ext. 45 or firstname.lastname@example.org.