The continuing trial run of a traffic revision at Dry Hollow Elementary has had at least one positive change, according to a police officer who regularly patrols the area.
Over the years, The Dalles Traffic Safety Officer Jeff Kienlen has seen countless near misses with parents and kids almost getting hit by cars as they dart across the street in the middle of the block.
But he’s observed every pickup and dropoff since June 4 and has seen far fewer close calls.
At least in the mornings, “traffic seems to flow a lot smoother on 19th and there seems to be a lot less near misses with people trying to park or pull back into traffic,” he said.
“It’s been working well,” he said of the temporary revision, which is a joint effort of the school, the city and the Blue Zones Project—The Dalles, a community wellness effort. “Things seem to be moving much more orderly.”
He said, “Is it perfect? No, but I do see some improvements to traffic flow and also especially for student safety.”
He tries to provide a presence at pickup at least once a week, and he’s been “astounded” that no one has been hit by a vehicle.
The traffic revisions consist of temporary cones, include two snorkel lanes in front of the school during dropoff, a mini circle allowing vehicles to legally turn around at 19th and Lewis, a mid-block crosswalk, and an area for dropping off and picking up kids by the baseball field west of the school.
Kienlen estimated that, between school staff and volunteers, some 12-15 people have been on hand morning and afternoon to facilitate the temporary traffic revisions.
Tuesday was better than Monday, Kienlen said last week, in terms of parents learning to move along so as not to hold up traffic behind them.
One day, volunteers counted 55 people using the temporary traffic circle to turn around. Illegal U-turns are common at the school, he said, despite the four signs in front of the school saying “no U-turn.” He tickets every driver he catches doing it.
In the afternoons, “I don’t see as much traffic stopped on the streets trying to find parking,” he said.
He said most people have been using the temporary mid-block crosswalk also, “so there’s not this flood of people just entering out into traffic and trying to cross.”
Parents have been asked to park on the north side of 19th and use the crosswalks or mid-block crosswalk. “With the exception of just a few people everybody has been doing that and I don’t see where it has caused big delays in the process.”
The concept for doing a temporary traffic revision came following a visit to town by a traffic expert brought here by Blue Zones Project.
He recommended the snorkel lane and other revisions.
He also recommended a construction project to take out the parking strips on both sides of the street and add a snorkel lane to improve traffic flow and safety.
Some neighbors do not like the idea of losing their parking strips, which include plantings they’ve installed, Kienlen said.
He was surprised when one neighbor wondered why they were doing this, since nobody had been hurt or killed. Kienlen said, “people are trying to make changes so that those things don’t happen.”
He stressed that the traffic revisions are temporary. “Nothing is set in stone,” he said. “This is just a trial.”
The area by the ballfield has both back-in parking and a drive-through area for drop-off and pickup.
Kienlen said he’s seen people park as much as an hour before school gets out in order to have a parking spot in front of the school.
He said volunteers and staff have been talking to parents and encouraging them about how best to use the drop off areas. They have talked to people who stop in the snorkel lane, holding up traffic behind them. That is happening less frequently now, though, he said.
Officials are hoping for funding to improve walking routes to schools, which would mean fewer parents driving their kids to school and less congestion.