Traffic expected to increase near schools | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Traffic expected to increase near schools

William Ferchland

Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily Tribune Aria Benham who lives between the entrance and exit driveways of Tahoe Valley Elementary school may find her curbside parking spot harder to find empty once school starts.

This is a different, milder form of road rage.

With a little more than two weeks before the start of school, concerns are rising about the influx of traffic near the elementary sites in Lake Tahoe Unified School District.

On Sept. 7 three elementary schools instead of five will house students. Al Tahoe and Meyers elementary schools were closed because of declining enrollment and budget constraints. The remaining three elementary schools – Bijou, Sierra House and Tahoe Valley – will each have about 700 students from the redistricting.

Earlier this month the district’s school board unanimously approved a report on the potential environmental impacts associated with redistricting. It found traffic would be the only concern and would remain “less than significant” with recommendations to lessen the impact.

The report brought one outcry. Harold Singer, head of a water quality agency, sent a letter to the board during his spare time representing himself as a concerned parent.

Singer disagreed with several of the report’s claims. His letter included an organized laundry list disputing the use of past enrollment highs to compare student numbers for the 2004-05 school year, traffic impacts and efforts to counter driving headaches for those dropping children off at the elementary schools.

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“Most of the proposed mitigation measures are just a compilation of nice sounding concepts that rely on the willingness of a third party, the parents of the students, for implementation,” Singer wrote.

He also believes the increased traffic will lead to more idling cars, something the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency battles by outlawing drive-through businesses in the basin.

In a response letter, Bill Wright, the district’s attorney who prepared information from Facilities Manager Steve Morales into report form, stated the measures were adequate.

“As with all time-related restrictions imposed on society, if the time frames for drop-off and pick-up are not adhered to, there will be a negative impact,” Wright stated.

At a school board meeting earlier this month, Wright and Singer announced they “agree to disagree.” Although the report was approved, some board members said they would help direct traffic at the start of the school year.

One avenue the district is promoting to control traffic is bus transportation. Gloria Helms, the district’s bus supervisor, expects some glitches but said the department is ready to roll with the punches.

“If I can make one point for all (those) involved is please let us get in and let us get out,” she said.

Morales said the district has sold more than 500 passes so far, equating to $37,000. It’s about the same as last year, said Morales, who hopes $125,000 will be gathered from the $125 bus passes.

Several residents along Tahoe Island Drive, the only road to access Tahoe Valley Elementary, were worried about the expectations of increased traffic.

“I’m a little concerned but there’s nothing I can do,” said Bruce Benham, who lives between the school’s entrance and exit.

“The biggest concern I have is this street. People fly by here,” he said.

Benham expected the neighborhood’s property values would take a hit. Across the street, Brian Sambu, who lives on the corner of the school’s exit, shrugged his shoulders when asked his opinion.

“I have no choice,” he said.

– E-mail William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com.