Tonight there was meeting at Jefferson Elementary to deliver the results of both the property valuation study and the traffic study that Spokane Public Schools had performed by outside firms to address concerns that many neighbors have about the possible relocation of Jefferson Elementary to either 37th & Manito Boulevard or 33rd Avenue across from Sacajawea Middle School.
Bill White of Intermountain Transportation Solutions presented the results of the traffic study that his firm was contracted to perform. White stated that traffic counts were performed at the intersections affected by school traffic in the weeks of April 15 and April 22, and that follow-up counts were performed at the intersections of 29th Ave. & Manito Blvd. and 29th Ave. & Division St. the week of June 14. White stated that all the counts were performed while school was in session. However, school let out for summer break on June 11th. One audience member said that she saw counts being done after school was out, but White assured her that those were not being performed by his firm.
Spokane Southie contacted White via e-mail to ask about the discrepancy. White said that "These counts were performed the last week of school, which was the week of the 7th. The date indicated was an error. These were PM peak hour counts anyway, which is a timeframe outside of the real school influences/impacts (5 to 6 PM)...The analysis of school changes was based on counts performed in April (8 to 9 AM and 3 to 4 PM timeframes)."
If Jefferson Elementary is moved westard to 37th & Manito Blvd., there is expected to be a 13% increase in traffic on Manito Blvd north of 37th Ave. to 29th Ave., which would mean that that about 1,200 cars a day would travel on that stretch of road on average, compared with about 1000 now. If it were to be moved north to 33rd Ave., the expected increase would be 15% on Manito Blvd.
White has discussed the possibility of putting in a traffic light at the intersection of 37th Ave. & Grand Blvd. with the City of Spokane and says it is something the city is "looking hard" at doing. This was met by applause from the audience. Installing a traffic light at that intersection would be needed to make keeping the school at 37th & Grand a viable option from a transportation perspective. A light would still be needed if the school were moved westward to 37th &Manito Blvd. Currently the intersection of 37th & Grand gets a failing grade for wait times during peak hours according to national and local standards and has sight distance issues due to the curve just north of 37th.
Moving the school north to 33rd would alleviate traffic at 37th & Grand but would require a light at 33rd & Grand to make it a viable option since there would be an increase of school and pedestrian traffic at the intersection. Currently 55% of Jefferson students live east of Grand and need to cross that busy street to get to school. White stated that the City would still need to address the intersection at 37th & Grand in the future and it is unlikely that the City would want lights at both 33rd & Grand and 37th & Grand. Furthermore, White said it is not recommended to locate two schools adjacent to one another, making the north option even less desirable.
At least one neighbor seemed to have her fears alleviated at the meeting, saying that increasing the number of cars on Manito Blvd. from 1000 to 1,200 "wouldn't make a big difference."
Other members of the audience raised concerns that the traffic study did not factor in how pedestrians using Manito Blvd. would be affected. Manito Blvd. is a well known route for joggers and walkers.
"The street is part of the park," one woman said.