The elimination of busing for Groveport Madison High School students may lead to increased spending on pedestrian infrastructure and intersection upgrades, Groveport city officials say.
Council members and residents questioned city staff members at the Aug. 12 Groveport City Council meeting about additional sidewalk installations and repairs and safety issues, particularly regarding more students crossing state Route 317 on foot or bicycle.
They also had concerns about greater traffic pressure at the entrance to the high school, because the elimination of busing to the school means many more students must find their own way to class this year.
Currently, there are no sidewalks or multiuse paths directly connected to the school property.
Resident James Chilton said he's got two seniors attending Groveport Madison High School this year and is concerned about their safety.
"My concern is, now they cut out the busing for my seniors ... there's no safe way to get to school, so I'd like to know what council is going to do about getting the kids to school safely," Chilton said.
Roger Parker, a resident and an employee of the Imagine Groveport Community School, said the new parking-lot plan put in place for Groveport Madison High School will prevent the charter school from parking buses that bring in students from outside the community in the southwest corner of the high school parking lot near the tennis courts. He said this may cause additional traffic safety issues at the charter school.
"Our outside buses aren't going to be allowed to park in the high school lot any more and we may end up with quite a traffic problem out there, because we have to add these 12 buses to the mix on Ventura Place, then try to get them in and out," Parker said. "I'm here asking if it's feasible to make a right-turn-only lane up there, since we can't stop traffic off 317."
There is no traffic signal at that intersection as there is at the entrance to the high school.
Groveport Police Chief Ralph Portier said he has been working with the Madison Township Police Department to help deal with the traffic issues, but he believes there still will be delays.
"We're going to encounter some issues and there's going to be an influx of vehicles," Portier said. "We anticipate about 800 kids are going to be walking and biking to school and our primary concerns then will be on 317 and the Metro Park paths."
District officials have said cutting bus service to the high school means more than 1,600 students will have to find their own way to class this year.
City Finance Director Jeff Green said a traffic study was conducted in 2006 when the charter school opened but it did not result in approval of any additional traffic lights or lane restrictions.
"We had a traffic study done and at that time it didn't warrant a signal, but I think it needs to be looked at again," Green said. "We've had these discussions before and it's not unreasonable to look into it again. Safety is our first concern."
Councilman Ed Rarey asked about the status of an application for state funds through the Safe Routes to Schools program.
Green said more information was requested from the schools after the latest review of the city's application. Councilwoman Jean Ann Hilbert asked that the city work with the schools to start a new application process that includes the high school, because the current application focuses on adding sidewalks to Wirt Road.
"The Safe Routes money isn't a panacea for us and we need to realize this will only be a part of the solution with that money, if we get it," Green said.
Rarey said he wants to see the city get aggressive and start building and repairing sidewalks now, regardless of whether the Safe Routes to School funds become available; however, no specific motion to begin that process was made during the meeting.