Moms Talk: What Should Be Done to Reduce Ridge Traffic?

What are your ideas for handling this longstanding problem? How does it affect your kids/your commute?

This is somewhat of a repeat of a Moms (and dads, etc.) but the subject just won't go away.

The diverting of buses along the streets Homestead Village on their way to the has created much more of an uproar than many might have expected.

The Cedar Hill School has a walkway leading to the rear of the adjoining high school, and for years has been an alternate way into the building for kids walking from the nearby neighborhood, as well as some car traffic.

But since the new "trial" bus route was started on Feb. 1, the streets heading to the elementary school have each morning received the influx of 27 school buses. But on top of that, many more parents dropping off their kids apparently discovered the back way into the school, and added to traffic on the neighborhood's narrow streets.

So far, according to the Homestead Village residents, two children heading to their own buses for the middle school have almost been hit by car drivers.

And at Monday'smeeting, — and the bus never stopped. The spectacle of a student in tears before an auditorium with a good number of audience members and a full dais of officials just rubbed the wrong way, whatever the reason.

Still, even opponents of the busing via Cedar Hill School have admitted there is a longstanding problem with traffic backups every single morning at the high school's main entrance, at a traffic light at the intersection of South Finley Avenue and Lake Road.

And certainly, while residents have approached the school board to voice their opinions, what about commuters and other people heading through town who deal with the daily bottleneck, right at the start of rush hour? Ridge Principal Frank Howlett said he has received communications — not always pleasant — from drivers are trying for other reasons to cross town on what may be the main route through Basking Ridge.

And what's been the effect of the change in the bus route, anyway? This morning, I unwillingly joined the drive-in crowd when our alarm didn't go off, and I had to drive my Ridge sophomore to school. I arrived at the back of the traffic line heading north on South Finley Avenue at 7:22 a.m.

Cars stretched out to as far as the more northern turnoff into the Cedar Hill School — certainly a temptation! But parents have been asked not to drop off students at Cedar Hill anymore, and the Basking Ridge Patch editor didn't want to add to the problems in Homestead Village.

So, even without buses, we crept along and reached the front of the high school at about 7:32, just as my car clock was about to turn to 7:33 a.m. Was he late? I guess I'll find out.

What else to do? Head through the municipal complex? The township police chief reportedly responded to suggestions of school buses accessing the back of the high school from the municipal complex by offering the concern that then the exit from the police department would be blocked by buses and other school traffic.

But what if an existing gravel access road between the municipal complex and school parking lot was paved and made into a one-way road for buses only? Is that possible? Or is it more complicated than it looks, as one official noted when I threw out that idea?

What about other ideas? The that options for substantially affecting traffic flow at the high school would require some sort of construction.

Construction is expensive — and neither the Board of Ed nor the municipality have extra money to throw around. And who wants their taxes to go up?

Would police directing at the high school in the morning help? What other ideas do you have?

Meanwhile, the Township Committee has asked — twice — that the school board stop sending buses through Homestead Village while other alternatives are examined.

But school officials — and some members of the public — point out that the merging of buses, parents dropping off students and student drivers, all at one spot in front of the high school, also is very dangerous. Board member that all existing options for traffic control at the high school "stink."

And the school district is setting up a task force, envisioned to include Homestead Village residents, to try to examine alternatives. Do you think that will help?

The common perception seems to be that all options have some sort of negative impact in another way. What ideas have you heard discussed, and do you think it's time to finally address a longstanding problem, or learn to better live with it rather than seeking a costly solution?

What do you think? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Debra DeWitt March 01, 2012 at 02:21 PM
I don't understand why the morning buses can't be re-routed through the Municipal Complex. Buses can drop off the students in front of Astor field and then exit onto Collyer. I would suggest a "right turn only between 7am-8am" sign plus someone possibly manning the exit giving right of way to the buses exiting (and entering if need be). I would think that solution would help alleviate buses backing up on the Complex exit drive. There are 25 buses in all. How long can it take them to exit if all are forced to turn right and traffic is stopped to allow them to turn right? The police department is concerned about re-routing buses through the complex possibly impeding them in the case of an emergency. Point taken but I would say this....if there was an emergency, are all the police cars sitting in the station waiting to go out? There are no other police cars in the general vicinity that could respond between 7am-8am? Or, if the police did indeed need to get out of the complex in the middle of buses exiting, can't they just put on their emergency lights, stop the bus traffic enough to make a quick exit onto Collyer, left or right? How is that different than if they have to respond to an emergency and attempt try to get thru the Lake/Finley intersection which is backed up in 3 different directions with high school traffic?
Laura March 01, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Agree with Paula and Christina. Supervision should be the first "experiment". The BOE is trying to keep the costs of getting kids to school outside their budget, first by not providing busing and second by getting the town to build roadways into the school (which should have been within the budget for the building expansion). Perhaps this brouhaha was designed to distract the community from the fact that there will no longer be any oversight of the school budget. They can now raise their budget by 2%, and not include items that parents or the community will end up having to pay for with higher municipal taxes. My prediction?- Count on increased salaries, but better start taking up collections for kindergarten, etc.
JKW March 01, 2012 at 11:52 PM
If I had a student at Ridge, the first question I would ask is why isn't Principal Howlett outside each and every morning directing traffic. Why hasn't he lined up teachers to be outside during arrival to help as well. At all other schools in town there is a specific plan in place to ensure safety for all students and to keep traffic moving along that includes administration and teachers. At Ceadr Hill Mr. Mollica is outside every single morning. Why is it that the same can not be said at Ridge. I would think implementing a protocol that includes administrative overseeing should be a crucial part of any Ridge plan. So why exactly, is this not the case? Mr. Howlett has been involved since the buses were rerouted but why was he invisible before this experiment? Makes you wonder about his commitment to student safety.
ILiveinBR March 02, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Not defending Principal Howlett but the kids need to start taking responsibility for their own actions, to continue to develop their sense of general awareness, nurture their independence, and most importantly to realize that there are other people out there with their own agenda that don't include them. There won't be crossing guards in college nor teachers that will remind them to do their homework nor Friday folders notices for the parents. Back to the problem at hand... all of us came up with great ideas and should be fodder to solving the problem but Debra's idea is totally feasible and doable which will provide the much needed instant relief. Our sport events do that already - discharging the kids there and some even park the buses there for the duration.
Debra DeWitt March 02, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Or - how about this....if we need to build a road - how about a one way, one lane exit only road from the east side of the Police Station directly onto Collyer, hence a 2nd exit out for police use only? Then buses can utilize the Munipal Complex for morning drop off without impact to the police in case of an emergency. I'm not an engineer but certainly the grading has got to be better than between the high school and N. Maple and the distance is for sure alot shorter so I'd think it would be less expensive than other road construction options. Not that I'm a proponent of spending but shouldn't the police station have more than one way out anyway?


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