KSBC Reviews Traffic and Parking Concerns

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READING, MA — The Killam School Building Committee (KSBC) spent time on March 25 viewing and evaluating several proposals regarding traffic and parking issues at the school. The committee, which is charged with oversight of the proposed elementary school project, was advised by traffic consultant Nicole Rodgers in a community meeting held at Killam on March 18 regarding several issues observed during a recent traffic study in the area.

Rodgers noted that during peak drop-off hours in the morning, there are 16 vehicles on site, with ten in a southbound queue on Charles Street and 27 in the northbound queue. There are also 35 vehicles parked on the street during this time period. During peak afternoon pick-up times, over 115 vehicles were parked on Charles Street as well as on the nearby Dana Road and Boswell Road. Rodgers continued, sharing that vehicles also park on the Haverhill Street side of the school property during both of the time periods observed.

Rodgers reported that the large turning radius at the intersection of Charles Street and Haverhill Street encourages faster-than-normal turning speeds onto Charles Street. Other issues reported include non-ADA compliant ramps, parked vehicles mounting the grass and sidewalk on Charles Street, queued vehicles that restrict pedestrians in nearby crosswalks, and speed issues on Haverhill Street, where an average morning and afternoon speed of 40 miles an hour in the zone was recorded despite a 20 mile-per-hour speed limit. Also at issue are the lack of active crosswalk signs in the region and no four-way stop at the intersection of Charles Street and Wakefield Street. 

Over a five-year period from 2018 to 2022, the area has a higher-than-average crash rate, with over 60% of the crashes occurring with parked vehicles. Fifty percent of all crashes in the area occur during morning and afternoon operations at the school.

“Our goal is to provide [the KSBC] solutions that balance the needs of the school and neighborhood,” Rodgers concluded.

At the March 25 meeting, traffic consultant Rebecca Brown provided some possible solutions to traffic issues in the school zone. Brown presented three possible on-site circulation layouts for a potential remodeled school building and three possible on-site circulation layouts for a newly constructed school building on the Killam site. All six layouts include a “safewalk” sidewalk through the site for pedestrians and moving the field space to the Charles Street side of the building.

“You have a tight site,” Brown observed. “We are trying to find the right balance of things.”

Both sets of possible solutions include a “site sweep,” a “side sweep,” and a “front sweep” option. All three possible solutions in the renovation option increase parking on the site to 110 spaces and provide between 25 and 40 queued vehicles on site. All three possible solutions in the new construction option have 120 on-site parking spaces with around 30 queued vehicles on-site. Each of the six plans has varied amounts of field and play space for student use. “It’s going to be a hybrid solution,” Brown added. “We’re not trying to get everyone on the [site].”

Also included in the proposals are upgrades to the surrounding roadways, including “active” crosswalk signs, bump outs to avoid some of the sweeping turns in the area, and designed parallel parking on one side of Charles Street. Some of these, including the addition of a four-way stop at Wakefield Street and Charles Street, could be enacted before the new project is underway.

“You’ve got your arms around the problem,” KSBC member Ed Ross commented. “You’re addressing all of the pain points I’ve experienced.”

Owner’s Project Manager Principal-in-Charge Mike Carroll did remind the committee that funding from the Massachusetts School Building Authority is limited to on-site improvements. Still, the town could potentially seek grants from other organizations to pay for off-site solutions.

The possible solutions will be presented in a community forum to be held at Killam Elementary School on April 1.

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