Education

Glen Rock Council Takes Step Back on Byrd School Traffic Study After Public Outcry

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404c3777162bf0f9b424_byrd_school_logo.jpg

GLEN ROCK, NJ – The Borough Council set a six-month moratorium to hold on any decision to fix traffic issues per the Byrd School traffic study after it heard once again from unhappy residents about the difficulties of living on Doremus Avenue where parents line-up their vehicles to pick-up their children.

On May 14, approximately 10 residents took issue with the findings of engineer Robert Nash who presented a solution on April 19 in a public forum after public listening sessions dating back to last fall.

The recommendation, according to Mayor Bruce Packer, “was to reverse the current traffic flow around Byrd and make Marinus and Oxford one-way streets, 24 hours a day.”

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“I don’t think after hearing huge outpourings of no’s, we can even consider the traffic study,” Packer said at the May 14 work session. “It seems like the issue is mostly people violating simple traffic safety.”

Council members agreed, saying the issue is emotional for the residents that live there who have suggested several other remedies, including keeping the street one-way during pick-up and drop-off.

Doremus Avenue resident complaints have dated back over the last 10 years, according to several area residents who have spoken at public forums during the last month.

“Byrd was built in the day when children walked to school and it was placed in a residential neighbor with no parking lot,” Police Chief Dean Ackermann said in an email on May 15.

Glen Rock has four elementary schools for a town of about 2.8 square miles with just under 12,000 residents, Ackermann said. “The bulk of our school district was built as a ‘walking’ district in the 1950s, but that does not fit it to the reality of the 21st Century.”

“As Glen Rock’s schools grew and more parents began driving their children to school, little has been done to improve the situation at Byrd or any other school,” the Chief said. “Until this past year, no professional traffic study had ever been done.”

“All that has been accomplished amounts to knee jerk reactions and quick fixes which at best solved one problem and created two or three others,” Ackermann said. “Many of the pick-up and drop-off ‘regulations’ around our schools were posted without a proper traffic study or ordinances being passed and are unenforceable. Years ago, Glen Rock, as well as many other communities, had a practice of putting up signs to make a small group of people happy with no thought given to proper traffic regulation or enforcement.”

Many residents agreed.

Resident Theresa Gilbreath said on April 19 the proposed plan, devised by an engineer, “will not make people smarter, it will not make them kinder.”

Michelle Torpey said over the past 11 years that her children have been attending Byrd Elementary School, she has seen a change in parents’ attitude.

Citing the engineer’s numbers, there are 60 to 65 cars there from 3:15-3:30 p.m. during drop-off, and that creates the problem for residents who say they cannot get in and out of their driveways and have been treated rudely by those picking up students.

“I’ve been cursed and seen all kinds of gestures,” Torpey said. “Ambulances can’t get through, landscapers can’t get through. We need enforcement.”

Chief Ackermann said enforcement cannot be accomplished unless there are ordinances to back it up. Mayor Packer said that is something the council is working on.

Another gentleman resident who spoke on April 19 said “presence is everything,” referring to police. Chief Ackermann said he cannot post an officer there on a daily basis.

“The streets around the each of schools cannot handle the volume of traffic during drop-off and pick-up times, nor can we place a police officer at every school every day without significantly expanding the size of the police department,” Ackermann said. “There is no perfect solution to this situation and our options are limited by the space which is available. This is true not only of Byrd School, but all six of our schools (five public, one private).  Byrd has the additional problem of no parking lot and no drop-off lane on school property.”

The original structure, he said, was built in 1915 as School # 2, intended to accommodate 72 students.  As the school was rebuilt in 1931, expanded in 1958, and most recently a media center was added, no consideration was given to parking or traffic, instead relying on the surrounding residential neighborhood to absorb the traffic and parking.

“We have now exceeded the maximum saturation point,” Ackermann said.  

But one gentleman countered, “People, 99 percent of the time, will respect an officer in uniform if he or she asks someone to move their vehicle.”

Ackermann, who worked with the engineer and the council on solution ideas, said “the issue which is still under consideration. No final decision has been made on any recommendation. This issue evolved over decades and will not be solved overnight, nor will it be solved with just one specific change in an individual traffic regulation. 

“There is no avenue available which will please each and every person, nor will any solution be without a down side,” Ackermann said. “The best we can hope for is a level of improvement that provides for safety, even if personal convenience has to take a back seat.

“Further the needs of the residents who live around our schools have to be given equal consideration to that of the parents dropping off their children and the staff members who work at the schools,” Ackermann said.

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