Council delays decision on IMS traffic

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June 23, 2015 - 12:00 AM

Iola City Council members will wait until July 13 before deciding whether to alter the flow of traffic around Iola Middle School.
The Council tabled a decision on making portions of East and Jackson streets one-way thoroughfares, seeking additional public comment and discuss other options.
The Council heard from Assistant City Administrator Corey Schinstock, who recommended making East Street a westbound-only lane from First to Cottonwood streets, while making Jackson Avenue an eastbound-only thoroughfare over the same stretch.
Schinstock pointed to an engineer’s traffic study earlier this spring — ordered after USD 257’s decision to utilize grade-level attendance centers starting this fall — counted 3,600 cars passing in front of IMS over a three-day stretch.
The district will add roughly 100 fifth-graders and seven to 10 teachers to the IMS campus in the fall.
“We know there will be an increase in traffic,” Schinstock said.
Parking near the street likely won’t change much, Schinstock noted, but having one-way traffic would eliminate parents dropping off their children on opposite sides of the street — thus eliminating what he considered one of the largest safety hazards facing kids and pedestrians.
Switching to one-way streets likely won’t be popular, Schinstock concluded, “but I think it’s necessary.”
Schinstock offered two options for the Council to consider; one-ways from First to Cottonwood, about four blocks, or one-ways from First to Colborn, just three blocks.
Schinstock said he favored the longer one-way stretches because First and Cottonwood are considered “feeder” streets and are able to accommodate more traffic.

COUNCIL members were quick to question Schinstock about what they described as a hurried effort to change the traffic flow, without garnering more public input.
“I wish I had more time,” he replied, which would have allowed the city to better reach out to residents living near IMS. “But when we got a signed scope of work with the engineer, it was end of April, and we were running behind the eight ball. It took us roughly a month to collect data, and it took engineers a month to put their report together.”
Council members peppered Schinstock with questions about how other nearby streets would be affected, particularly Cottonwood, Madison, Colborn and Elm streets.
Councilman Bob Shaughnessy wondered how long the line of cars to pick up students would be if motorists were funneled in one direction.
Middle school principal Jack Stanley, a long-time advocate of converting streets around the school to one-way thoroughfares, said the district is planning to change its bus loading zone. Students now will board buses on the east side of the school, along Elm Street.
Mayor Joel Wicoff pointed to the engineer’s study presented by Schinstock, which listed other options the city should consider, such as implementing an active traffic control system; i.e. adding crossing guards, or dynamic signs that could enable the city to make streets one-way routes at certain points of the day.
Less extensive options include adding a pull-out lane, Wicoff said.
“Yeah, it’s a headache,” Wicoff said. “Yes, you better pay attention to what you’re doing. But if we go to a one-way street, it’s still going to be a headache.”
Perhaps the middle school could add off-street loading zones in its spacious school yards, Wicoff surmised.
Schinstock responded that those changes would be more costly, either to the city or USD 257.
Switching East and Jackson to one-way streets would be less expensive, Schinstock said.

LISA DUNNE, 422 East St., said she would be perhaps most affected by any traffic changes, because her house already is connected to a one-way street.
Making East Street a one-way route “is not going to fix the problem,” and could, in fact, create other hazards, Dunne said.
Forcing more cars from East Street onto Cottonwood would increase traffic there, “and it’s already horrendously dangerous,” she opined.
Dunne said convenience isn’t a factor in her opposition.
“If I felt having to drive extra would fix it, I would happily do that,” she said.
“The decision to change schools to attendance centers shouldn’t force other changes” that may not work, Dunne said. “We should make a permanent fix, not a temporary one.”

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