SCPA, county seek solutions to traffic issues at school

BAYTOWN TOWNSHIP — A spike in traffic during peak pick-up and drop-off times near St. Croix Preparatory Academy has both the county and the school working together to manage the issue.

“Ever since building the school, managing traffic on Stagecoach has been something we’ve continuously worked on,” said SCPA executive director Jon Gutierrez. “Overall the volumes haven’t been that bad but we continue to have conversations with the county. Our school gets out at 4 p.m. and usually we get all the cars off the property at 4:15 p.m. We’ve noticed additional traffic with the bridge closure both northbound and southbound on the road.”

Washington County Engineer Wayne Sandberg said because SCPA draws from a larger area there are spikes in traffic during drop-off and pick-up times from the school. People who drive outnumber the people taking buses that results in a line that backs up onto the highway during the morning and into the school during the afternoon.

“It’s important to note that this isn’t unique to this school,” Sandberg added. “Every school on a busy highway will struggle with commuter, truck, and parent and student traffic challenges. Our challenge is to balance it so that it doesn’t negatively affect the highway that everyone travels.”

Sandberg said the school, as a commercial enterprise, has a responsibility to keep traffic from being at a standstill.

Gutierrez said that internally, school officials staggered release times and will evaluate the traffic flow with the county once the Lift Bridge re-opens next month. He added that he continues to monitor traffic as well.

“I know it’s difficult for some of the buses to get on the highway and that’s an issue, but we’re working with the school on it,” county Commissioner Gary Kriesel said. “It really makes good sense in the long run to put an entryway on County Road 14 and for that we have to then determine funding between the city, school and township.”

Gutierrez said that as the school enters it’s next phase of development, which includes field development, they will certainly keep thinking along the lines of putting in an entrance and exit on their property as they work with the county on their capital improvement plan for 2016.

Sandberg said the county’s capital improvement plan would evaluate a number of roads and the entrance to SCPA. A traffic study is part of this plan and the goal of the project is to identify, facilitate and improve the roads. It’s a feasibility study to gain a cost estimate going forward. As the school continues to grow the study will help in planning to alleviate the traffic going forward.

Currently there is one stop sign at the exit of SCPA.

“There’s only one stop sign at the exit, and the longer people wait at the stop sign, they become more anxious and nervous if they feel they’re holding people up. We’ve been very lucky to have no crashes there but there is the potential for something bad to happen,” Sandberg said.  “We’ve talked about a few things, but what can be done right now is that we can install a traffic light to help manage the problem while we put a longer term plan in place.”

The groups will reconvene in January to talk about costs and how the traffic light would be funded. Sandberg said that the earliest a traffic light could go in would be this summer.