Jefferson City officials and a Jefferson City Public Schools parent are worried the crosswalk at Thorpe Gordon Elementary might be an "accident waiting to happen."
Kennette Goodman has a child attending Thorpe Gordon, and she told the Jefferson City Public Works and Planning Committee on Thursday she has seen numerous instances when cars have tried to bypass the pick-up line by going around the line or have driven the wrong direction down the one-way stretch of Jackson Street, endangering students using the crosswalk.
On the southwest side of the crosswalk, Jackson Street goes from a two-way street to a one-way. City Engineer David Bange said he has observed cars making a right onto Jackson Street from Woodlawn Avenue to drive the wrong direction down the one-way street.
Parents who pick up their children in the northeast parking lot of the school also drive the wrong way down the street, Goodman added.
"This is a terrible accident waiting to happen," she said.
Committee members suggested adding temporary barricades on Jackson Street to prevent vehicles from driving the wrong way.
"They cut through there because they can," Ward 3 Councilman Ken Hussey said. "If people know they can't go through and will get stuck in the pick-up lane, they will find another way."
Goodman said she has seen students try to cross the street unsupervised or not at the crosswalk.
While not ideal, Bange said, vehicles in the pick-up line were backed up on Jackson Street during dismissal time Wednesday and allowed students to cross the street.
"There was no traffic on the street because all of the cars were stopped," he said.
At the South Elementary School crosswalk on Linden Drive, cars from both directions line up along the curb line and create a congested area during dismissal time, Bange said. While it creates visual impairments, he added, it also reduces the speed through the area.
Students will gather in a group at the crosswalk and cross the street when told by a school staff member, Bange said, adding it "appeared to be very safe and efficient."
"While it's not perfect, because of the way (it) functions, I don't know if particular improvements will make (the crosswalk) better," Bange said, adding the school could add flashing lights to warn drivers to slow down at certain times.
Jefferson City and JCPS representatives should meet to discuss the problems and potential solutions, particularly at Thorpe Gordon, Ward 2 Councilman Rick Mihalevich said.
"It seems to me we should at least (do) our part of ensuring we have safe crossings," Mihalevich said, adding that could include re-adjusting the crosswalk, improving the drop-off and pick-up system, or increasing public safety presence.
When a crosswalk was installed on Dunklin Street at the Employment Security Division building, Bange said, the city oversaw the design and project but the requester covered the cost, which was about $40,000. This cost included flashing lights, signs and bump-outs.
After speaking with JCPS Transportation Safety and Security Coordinator Frank Underwood, it was unclear if the school district would partner on the project or improve the crosswalks, Jefferson City Operations Division Director Britt Smith told the committee.
Underwood did not return the News Tribune's request for comment.
When Mihalevich called JCPS, he said, he "got the impression from the school that the city is going to fix it."
The safety issue at Thorpe Gordon is "not solely a city issue right now," City Administrator Steve Crowell said, adding there is a "significant responsibility on the school to make the situation better."
West High Street bridge improvements
In other business Thursday, city staff plans to make cosmetic improvements to the West High Street viaduct, which may close the bridge for a couple of weeks in November.
The viaduct was constructed in 1949-50 to replace the previous one built in 1913. The bridge has been showing its age for some time and needs large improvements, Jefferson City Public Works Department Director Matt Morasch said.
"Seventy years later, it's done a pretty good job, but it does need rehabbing," he said.
However, the city does not have enough funds to replace or rehabilitate the bridge, he added.
To make major improvements — replacing all expansion joints and repairing the concrete deck and curb, among other repairs — would cost about $1.9 million, according to a 2010 Bridge Engineering Assistance Program from Bartlett & West.
Replacing the bridge would cost $3.5 million, according to the study.
These numbers are most likely incorrect now since the study is nearly 9 years old, Morasch said, adding city staff knows the bridge has deteriorated further since that study.
City staff plans to propose adding the bridge to the next sales tax project list. The current sales tax runs through 2022, Morasch said.
The city plans to make small changes to the bridge, such as stabilizing rocks that are coming loose, spraying sealer, repairing the bridge deck and addressing gaps. City staff wants Sam Gaines Construction Company to finish street closures for the downtown streetscape project before closing the bridge for a couple of weeks, Smith said.
While it needs repair, the bridge is "not in danger of being closed (permanently) at this point," Morasch said.