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Woolwich looking for solution to traffic congestion at Elmira school

Parents dropping off their kids at Elmira’s John Mahood Publc School pose a safety threat, but measures aimed at reducing the risk shouldn’t penalize nearby residents, Woolwich council decided.

Presented this week with a plan to prohibit stopping on the north side of First Street across from the school, councillors rejected the idea while approving other changes to combat congestion. Instead of using the parking lot at the tennis courts, drivers will be directed further along to the Gibson Park municipal lot, where the township hopes the Waterloo Region District School Board will share the costs for a second entrance to facilitate traffic flow.

The current no-stopping provisions – 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday – will remain in effect on the north side of First Street.

A growing student population and increase in the number of parents driving their kids to school have led to more safety concerns, clerk Christine Broughton told councillors meeting June 28. Traffic congestion and parked cars near the school were to blame for an incident last October that saw a student cycling near the school struck by a car. While the child was not seriously injured, the accident drew attention to the problem at John Mahood.

Subsequent enforcement measures, including ticketing and speaking to parents, proved ineffective, as many of those dropping of their kids simply continue as usual, she explained.

Lacking the resources to have someone on site on a regular basis, staff looked at ways to move traffic away from the school and reduce congestion.

The plan to prohibit stopping and parking on the north side of First Street met with resistance from neighbours, however.

Judy Wells, who lives on First Street across from Gibson Park, said the restrictions mean residents would be paying the price for the misdeeds of John Mahood parents.

“We feel we’re being penalized for a problem at the school,” she told councillors Tuesday night, adding the changes would be an imposition on the neighbourhood.

Her arguments drew swift agreement for all members of councillors, who scratched the no-stopping provisions from the list of recommendations.

“I think the 24-hour restriction is a little bit ridiculous,” said Coun. Julie-Anne Herteis, agreeing with Wells’ assessment.

Acknowledging the provision would not be fair to neighbours, Mayor Todd Cowan noted the other changes are needed to address a situation that would only get worse as the school’s population grows along with the town’s.

Woolwich plans to spend about $3,000 to close off the west entrance to the tennis court parking lot and another $5,000 to open up another driveway entrance to the Gibson Park lot. If a cost-sharing arrangement with the school board can be agreed to quickly, the work could be done in time for the next school year.

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