Traffic expected to increase as school resumes

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comAugust 6, 2013 

Columbus police Lt. Tony Danford said Tuesday some people don't get the message that school is back and are not ready for the increased amount of traffic they will face.

"Speeding is always an issue. People are impatient and pass where there are double yellow lines," Danford said.

Muscogee County public schools begin today, and Danford said Columbus police will have extra officers on duty in school zones monitoring the traffic situation and looking for drivers putting others in danger.

"The worst is in the morning when people are trying to get to work, but there is also congestion in the afternoon when school lets out," Danford said.

Elementary schools begin at 8 a.m., high schools at 8:25 a.m. and middle schools at 9 a.m.

Elementary schools let out at 2:30 p.m., high schools at 3:25 p.m. and middle schools at 4:05 p.m.

Danford said traffic congestion is bad in all parts of the city. It is especially so in the first couple of weeks when some parents, who will have their children riding a bus later, like to come with them.

"They might be taking them to a new school," he said.

The area where Northside High School, Veterans Memorial Middle School and North Columbus Elementary are located is "notoriously bad," he said, because Veterans Parkway is a higher-speed roadway.

Regardless, drivers across the Valley should be looking out for children running into the street.

Muscogee County School District Transportation Director Frank Brown said that there are many congested school areas in the city. Double Churches Road, Moon Road, Buena Vista Road and Cusseta Road are a few he mentioned as particularly hot spots.

He does not see any problem around the new Aaron Cohn Middle School because there are two ways into the school.

Brown said the traffic situation would be even worse if so many of the approximately 32,000 Muscogee County students did not take the bus to school.

"Three years ago, we had 9,600 students riding the bus. This year we'll have more than 16,500," Brown said. "Statistics show it is the safest way for a student to get to school."

He believes the reason for the increase of bus riders is the economy. Families, he said, are watching the budget and trying to save on gas money.

Brown said the district will have about 295 buses on the road each day, taking children to and from school as well as transporting them to after-school programs.

He said people should be aware that 50 of the buses will be equipped with a special camera that will record any vehicle that passes a school bus once the stop sign has come out.

"When the bus caution lights come on, drivers need to stop," Brown said.

With school back, Brown and Danford suggested that people adjust their schedules, perhaps by taking a different route to work or leaving home at a different time.

Bus drivers, Brown said, are on tight schedules, and they, too, must be patient in the heavy traffic.

"When we have a bus get stopped by a train, that can really be a problem," he said.

Brown said the Muscogee County bus drivers are well trained. The state requires drivers to have three in-service training sessions and the district requires five.

He reminds parents to make sure their children stand 12 feet away from the curb when at the bus stop.

Brown said it needs to be everyone's goal to keep children safe.

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