By Betsy Dolan
|At press time the Star received the following email from Doug Adolph with the City of Sugar Land: “A school zone is being installed along University Boulevard near Fort Settlement Middle School. The school zone will be operational on Monday, March 18. Traffic and engineering staff routinely evaluate new roadways and make adjustments as needed. After reviewing the roadway, City staff has decided to add the school zone. In addition, speed feedback signs will be installed, and an additional crosswalk will be striped on the east side of the intersection of Commonwealth and Elkins Road.”|
As students streamed out of Fort Settlement Middle School on Friday, there was still one lesson to be learned before their spring break could begin.
At the corner of Elkins and University, Associate Principal Brad Hitchcock was teaching Crosswalk 101.
“Look first and then go,” Hitchcock told a group of students waiting to cross University. “There’s going to be a pop quiz on this when you get back!”
Since University Boulevard opened to through traffic on March 6, residents in the Brazos Landing subdivision have been pushing the City of Sugar Land to put in a school zone on University where it intersects with Elkins.
“My son used to walk to school but not any more,” said Mrudula Gutta, a Brazos Landing resident. “We feel like the city is putting their mobility plan ahead of our children’s safety.”
University Boulevard was paid for by county mobility funds in order to move traffic around Sugar Land and alleviate congestion on Highway 6. It is intended to carry more traffic with less stops and starts, according to the City of Sugar Land.
Approximately 100 students cross University twice a day to get to Fort Settlement which faces Elkins. Currently, there is only one cross walk on the west side of University causing some students to cross Elkins or University four times in order to get to school.
The intersection has a stop light but no left turn arrows and signs prohibiting right turns on red during school arrival and dismissal times..
The parents say a reported near-miss at the intersection two days before University opened involving a student and a car has made them even more determined to fight City Hall.
“This has been a constant battle for us,” said Sharad Gupta, a Brazos Landing resident. “We started a petition drive two years ago to get the light installed at the intersection because the City originally planned on just a 4-way stop. We had to fight to have the speed limit reduced from 45 to 40. And now we’ll fight to have the school zone put in.”
For their part, the City of Sugar Land says they have listened to the parents’ concerns and have made concessions such as installing the stop light and reducing the speed. In addition the city says they will conduct a school zone study in six months after University’s traffic patterns have been established.
“Previous engineering studies have shown that a school zone is not warranted at the location because the school property does not access University Boulevard and there are no designated student drop off locations,” said Doug Adolph, City spokesman. “Traffic signals are far safer than school zones because traffic must come to a complete stop, providing safe pedestrian access across the road.”
The City has also increased police patrols at the intersection. On Friday, a motorcycle officer was warning motorists who were making illegal right turns on red and three patrol officers were warning speeders. Traffic engineers were also on scene monitoring traffic flow.
And Associate Principal Brad Hitchcock was there too, putting a protective arm in front of a student who was about to step into the intersection while a car made an illegal right turn on red.
“See! That’s what I’m talking about! You have to look first.”