January 6, 2011 |

Permit delays safe school path

Plans for a safer route to school this winter were blocked in part by difficulty securing a state driveway permit to place a culvert in the right-of-way of Old Haines Highway.

Haines Borough projects chief Brad Maynard said the borough planned to build a path off the highway, adjacent to the high school track so students wouldn’t have to walk at the edge of the highway to get to school.

The path would have been kept clear of snow and established on a trial basis to see if a more permanent such route would work.

The borough’s permit application, however, identified the spot as a student "drop-off" point, which became an issue for state Department of Transportation officials. "I think it was more how the permit was presented to them than anything else," Maynard said.

The resulting delay, however, means such a trail won’t be in place for winter.

Maynard said he’ll resume the project next spring, but doesn’t expect site work to get going before April.

The larger, borough-led Safe Routes to Schools effort hit a snag last summer when school officials balked at a plan that would have established pedestrian routes to the school which included eliminating staff parking near the building entrance on Old Haines Highway.

The borough then started an abridged effort, to get students off the Haines Highway adjacent to school property this winter. Maynard said there’s room for a permanent, lit trail, six to eight feet wide, between the road and the track. "I think the school should seek funding next year for a permanent walkway," he said.

Maynard said it’s the school’s turn to advance the larger project. "If the school bought in on a plan, we could move on grant funding to build that trail" and purchase equipment to keep it clear in winter, Maynard said.

School superintendent Michael Byer said he wanted to involve students in developing the larger plan. "We’re going to try and get something going. We agreed to the alternative route and going along the Old Haines Highway. As far as the (overall) plan, that was a big piece of it over there."

Byer said the school’s opposition to the borough’s plan centered on a recommendation to change a parking area near the school entrance into a student-drop-off and pick-up zone. Byer said he had concerns about eliminating handicapped parking in that area, as well as early-morning parking needs.

Student safety has been an issue since the school renovation, which made the main school entrance for students of all grade levels the door facing Old Haines Highway.

State Department of Transportation plans to move two flashing school lights from Main Street to the Old Haines Highway.