Start of school year means more traffic, pedestrians

ariquelmy@ledger-enquirer.comAugust 10, 2012 

Get ready for the opening bell.

Muscogee County School District students head back to class Monday. Their Phenix City counterparts start the following week. Anyone on the roads should expect more vehicles, more pedestrians and, quite possibly, more headaches.

"Slow down," Columbus Police Lt. Tony Danford advised. "Be aware that schools are starting back."

The new academic year means the return of school buses and school traffic zones. It also means problem traffic areas will return.

In Columbus, those areas include American Way at Veterans Parkway by Northside High, North Columbus Elementary and Veteran's Memorial Middle School, said Valerie Fuller, communications director with the Muscogee County School District.

Rothschild Middle, on Hunt Avenue near Buena Vista Road, is another spot where drivers should stay alert. A crosswalk over Buena Vista is under construction for at least another month, Fuller said, and two crossing guards will be in the area.

The new Carver High School, 3100 Eighth St., is another challenge for parents dropping off and collecting their children. The entrance and exit to the school is a loop. Parents will enter one way, drop off their children and keep going ahead to exit.

Parking at the school also is accessed by the front loop. There is no student parking behind the school, Fuller said. "There will be a police officer on duty directing traffic," she added.

Phenix City parents who have children at Lakewood Elementary or Lakewood Primary schools also have a new traffic situation to contend with, though they had about three weeks at the end of last school year to prepare.

Lakewood Elementary originally held kindergarten through fifth grades. In some eight years, it saw its enrollment grow from 300 to 1,100.

That caused massive traffic problems on Silver Lake Drive and led to the construction of a new school on the same property. The new building holds kindergarten and first grade. The old school has second through fifth grades, said Phenix City Schools Superintendent Larry DiChiara.

The two schools opened for the last three weeks of the previous academic year, which DiChiara said gave parents a taste of what to expect.

"The traffic situation was 1,000 percent better," he added.

The new school has a road around its perimeter, which allows about 100 cars to get off the main road and eliminates a traffic bottleneck, DiChiara said. The two schools also have a service road connecting them, which means parents can avoid getting back on Silver Lake Drive if they need to hop between buildings.

Additionally, DiChiara said parents with children at the primary school should approach from Silver Lake Drive and leave the same way. Elementary school parents should come from Pierce Road and return that way when they exit.

Administrators will address questions and concerns at a series of open houses at the schools this coming week.

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