IRON RIVER—Plans for improving traffic patterns around the West Iron County school campus was a major topic during the School Board’s July 15 regular meeting.
Superintendent Chris Thomson outlined a preliminary plan that would create a larger area for elementary parents to drop off and pick up students—and also improve traffic flow for bus drivers at the start and end of a school day.
The goal is to create a safer and more efficient pick-up area. It will involve the demolition of an old bus garage along Washington Avenue. The building later housed vocational classes; in recent years, it has just been used for storage.
Finance Chairman Rob Possanza noted that the storage building cost the district $2,900 for electricity last year plus $2,600 for heating. Thomson said it also interferes with sight lines and traffic flow near the main entrance to the parking lot.
Some work can be done this summer, but most will wait until the summer of 2014.
The idea came from IDI, an architectural and engineering firm from Marquette. “They are in the initial stages of looking at traffic flow,” said Thomson. “When we do this, it’s going to have to meet all the state specs. That’s quite a long process.”
Tentative plans include an eight-inch curb with a eight-foot sidewalk separating the two pick-up areas—elementary parents to the east, bus traffic to the west. The sidewalk separating them would run south from the elementary building and then turn 90 degrees towards Washington Avenue. Thomson said the new sidewalk’s height and width is “more than enough” to meet state school code.
“They have to be separate,” he continued. “We’re grandfathered in now, but once we make a move on this, we have to meet all state code.”
Though the project is only on the drawing boards, Thomson said, he wanted the board to have an idea of the changes being discussed.
An expanded area for buses would make life easier for their drivers. “Presently, we back the buses in here. If we create this sidewalk space, our buses will be able to line up, and our kids will be able to stay on the sidewalks to get on and off.”
The elementary pick-up area will be greatly enlarged both to the west and south. The extra room comes at the expense of a small staff parking lot between the storage building and elementary building.
To make up for that, 10 more parking spots will be added to a staff parking lot between the administration and high school buildings, near the flagpole. That area is not being used now and is far away from playground areas.
Thomson also noted that any changes on the school campus need to be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration since it is within 500 feet of Stambaugh Airport.
Though parts of the project will need state approval, some work can be done right away:
--Demolition of the storage building.
--Removal of the current sidewalk near the elementary pickup area.
--Maintaining and refurbishing the staff parking lot so it can handle 10 more cars.
Thomson said IDI plans to have a final plan ready to be sent to the state this fall. If approved, it can go out for bid next spring, with construction starting next June.
There is an alternative plan for bus traffic: asking Iron River’s City Council to turn Garfield Avenue (west of the high school) into a one-way street. But if buses load and unload there, it would mean all the high school and elementary bus students would be using the same doors.
The superintendent said Hebert Construction has some concrete barriers that can be set up to separate the bus pickup area and the elementary pickup area for this year.
Originally, Thomson said, IDI estimated it would cost $450,000 “to redo everything. This is going to be much less and still serve the purpose we want.”
Board Member Eric Malmquist suggested that the board wait until bid specifications are drawn up. “There are a lot of potentials there,” he noted.
The next step is getting a firm idea of the costs. The board agreed to seek quotes for a 106-by-9-foot area by the elementary school (sidewalk removal, excavation, gravel base and asphalt) and the enlarged 100-by-20 foot parking lot (excavation, subbbase, gravel base, restoration and asphalt).
If it is over $22,000, the work has to be bid out. If over $8,000, the district needs to ask for quotes.
Thomson said it may be more cost-efficient for the district to re-do all the asphalt on the campus at once. “I know we have asphalt companies in and out of town all year.”
“You’re never going to get it any cheaper than this year,” said Board Member Gary Pisoni. “Never.” The district will ask for asphalt quotes, too.