By Conrad Dudderar
Yukon citizens shared concerns about traffic congestion in and around school zones shortly after the new school year began.
Students returned Thursday, Aug. 17 to classrooms at Yukon’s public and private schools.
As expected, this led to an abrupt increase in both school bus and passenger vehicle traffic leading to the school sites.
“We know that traffic is going to be more congested, is going to be heavier and there’s going to be more of it,” Yukon Police Chief John Corn said.
Of particular interest is the Yukon High School campus, 1777 S Yukon Parkway, which now has 2,800 teenage students in grades 9-12.
“We know, at the beginning of each school year, that traffic is going to be an issue,” Chief Corn said. “It’s not that anyone is illegally parking or is abandoning vehicles in the road.
“We have to remember that we have a freshman class that were eighth graders the year before when they went to an entirely different campus. Whether they ride a bus or get dropped off in personal vehicles, we know there’s going to be an influx of new students arriving on that campus.”
YPD officers were placed in all city of Yukon school zones on “special assignment” for the first two days of the new school year. Officers also were assigned last week to campuses that typically have higher traffic congestion – specifically Yukon’s high school and middle school.
The Yukon Police Department saw a peak in complaint calls about school traffic during the first few days of the 2023-24 school year – but they’ve decreased since.
After the first week of school, the YPD’s school resource officers were already seeing a decrease in traffic backups.
“Which is normal,” Chief Corn added. “That congestion starts to lighten up as students realize when they actually need to be dropped off for class and when they need to be picked up.
“People are finding their routine. Whether they are there dropping a child off or picking a child up – or they live in that area and are just trying to get to work – they’ve adapted routes or changed the route they normally would go because school’s now back in session.”
SROs direct traffic during the school year on the YHS campus where sophomores, juniors and seniors drive their own vehicles.
LONG LINES IN STREETS
Long lines of cars waiting to pick up or drop off students in the afternoons have become common near schools on several major city streets like Vandament, Holly, Yukon Parkway, and Garth Brooks Boulevard.
This often causes frustration among other motorists traveling these areas, who are being advised to seek alternate routes when practical to avoid the school traffic.
But there is nothing unlawful about waiting in a line of vehicles on a public street for a specific purpose – that of picking up or dropping off a student at a school, Chief Corn noted.
School bus access is another challenge when entering and leaving Yukon school property in the mornings and afternoons. Many Yukon Public Schools’ busses make multiple stops on residential routes to pick up and drop off students at district sites.
“They have to make several trips through different areas of town,” Corn pointed out.
Ten of the 12 YPS schools are in Yukon city limits – the high school, middle school, two intermediate schools, and six elementary schools.
Traffic in front of St. John Nepomuk Catholic School and Southwest Covenant Christian Schools also is within Yukon Police jurisdiction.
The posted school zone speed limit is 25 miles per hour. Fines increase significantly for speeding and other traffic violations in school zones.
“Based on the decrease we’re seeing in congestion and decrease in the amount of traffic at one time, we probably will not be doing more specialized assignments,” Chief Corn said. “But we’ll continue to work those school zones, like we normally would, throughout the year.
“We just want to make sure everybody is following the speed limit when the signs are flashing and are active.”
PLEASE PARK IN DRIVEWAY
Yukon’s police chief reiterated his desire for Yukon residents to park their vehicles in their driveways – whenever possible – to reduce congestion on residential neighborhood roadways.
This is particularly important during those peak weekday school traffic times.
“When you have more vehicles parked on city streets – and they’re streets adjacent to these school campuses – it does present more of a hazard because of the number of kids walking to and from school and number of vehicles and busses traveling down some of these streets,” Corn pointed out.
“It can present its own traffic problem just because there’s a parked car on a two-lane side street adjacent to a school. We’ve seen it quite a bit around Myers and Ranchwood elementary.”