Local parents demanding upgraded traffic safety in school zones

Idaho Falls

2  Updated at 6:00 am, June 19th, 2017 By: Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com
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IDAHO FALLS — Crossing guards, flashing traffic signals, and school zone signs are all a part of the solution to a growing traffic issue in the Stonebrook neighborhood.

During a public meeting last week, concerned parents and drivers alike voiced concerns about the lack of traffic safety precautions in the Sunnyside Elementary school zone. The meeting was held at the Idaho Falls Police Training Annex Building on Park Avenue.

Homeowners association members, parents, and school administrators brought their concerns to city officials and law enforcement. The overall feeling was that a solution couldn’t come quickly enough.

“With teen drivers and the accidents that have been happening we’re just really concerned at distracted drivers hitting a child in a cross walk,” parent Jamie Braithwaite told EastIdahoNews.com.

Parents said many teenagers travel through the area at rapid speeds carpooling younger siblings to the elementary. Some feel careless teen drivers are adding to the danger of the already high traffic school zone. As hundreds of children walk to school daily parents are anxious some of their kids won’t make it safely.

“I got involved with the PTO and realized they’d been working on this for four years and they just felt desperate to have this situation solved,” parent Jessica Zeller said. We’d had several near misses up to four or five children who were either nicked by a car or almost hit.”

The highest traffic areas include the four roads surrounding Sunnyside Elementary– Stonebrook Lane, Woodhaven Lane, Nathan Drive, and Cobblestone Lane. Hundreds of students in kindergarten through sixth grade use those roads to get to school.

“They’re expected to know how to maneuver several different cross walks to get to the school along with distracted drivers and tons of speeding teens. There’s too much traffic in order for there to not be some kind of horrible mischance,” Zeller said.

Zeller said growing neighborhoods surrounding the school increase the traffic issue as well. She said with more construction in the are come more families, students, cars and students walking to school.

At the meeting parents presented solutions like permanent signage, or traffic control from local law enforcement from their “S.U.N. (Safety in Upgraded Neighborhood) in Sunnyside Action Plan.”

“There’s flashing lights options, there’s training options to get crossing guards, there’s paid crossing guards, there’s volunteer crossing guards, there’s a lot of safety equipment that goes along with it. There’s stop signs, vests,” Braithwaite said.

“I would love to see crossing guards even if they are volunteer,” Zeller said.

Braithwaite said an application has been sent in for a Neighborhood Assist Grant sponsored by State Farm Insurance. The top 200 causes chosen by the insurer voted upon online by the public. The winning neighborhood will receive $25,000 toward neighborhood improvements. Braithwaite is hoping these funds could be put toward a traffic solution.

Decisions won’t be made until a few months down the road, and major physical implementations will mostly likely be made next summer.

“In order for us to get a completely good evaluation of what should be done there we’re going to need to wait until schools back in session and we have the typical traffic we have once school’s in session and the kids are walking to school,” Idaho Falls City Engineer Kent Fugal said.

Fugal said minor traffic implementations may be made once school starts up again. He said once school is back in session they can determine what the best solutions are through further traffic studies.

“We are looking at whether we can temporarily relocate some of the reduced speed school flashing assemblies to a more appropriate location,” Fugal said. “If we can’t do that relatively inexpensively we probably won’t spend the money to do it right away because that’s something that could change with the results of the further analysis.”

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  • Concerned parent

    I live on Nathan Drive near Cobblestone and it is not just distracted teen drivers who create the most risk. Daily I watch parents who are running late with their kids in tow speed down the road and a large majority don’t stop at the crosswalk. I also see adults looking down at their phones. In the three years that I have lived here, it is obvious that the risk of a student/vehicle incident seems imminent unless changes are made … by the city and DRIVERS.

  • Outraged

    Uhh…wow. This sad story is just breaking my heart! A $25,000 neighborhood assistance grant? If there’s so many people so upset, how about you organize a volunteer schedule?…and BTW, people look at their phones and teenagers drive the same way in every neighborhood, not just the rough area of Stonebrooke.