Township Opposes Bus Dropoff Behind Town Hall

Residents say they feel they are in 'tennis match' between school board and township committee.

A request from Homestead Village residents that morning school buses drop off students behind town hall rather than traveling their neighborhood streets to reach met with refusal this week.

Residents who say that an influx of buses endanger children and other walkers along their narrow streets had on March 13 persuaded the to endorse their suggestion of routing high school buses through the municipal complex for the remainder of this school year. Students then would need to cross an athletic field and parking lots to reach a rear entrance to the high school.

Since Feb. 1, buses have been dropping high school students at the Cedar Hill School to try to relieve traffic backups at the main entrance to the high school.

Soon afterward, the township and school board begun talking about a permanent solution for improving traffic flow on high school campus on South Finley Avenue. The school board on for to study ways of streamlining traffic, with the goal of putting a solution in place by next fall.

But Township Committee members on Tuesday said they are unanimously in agreement with Mayor Mary Pavlini's letter to the school board outlining why the high school buses won't be allowed to use the adjoining municipal property at 1 Collyer Lane.

"The Township Committee believes that the school district’s desire to send its school buses through the municipal complex, even on a temporary basis, is not a workable solution," Pavlini's letter said. "On the contrary, we feel it would create even greater safety, traffic and emergency response dangers to our residents, including the Ridge High School students we all want to keep safe."

The letter said the township urges the school administration to consider several other temporary fixes that alone, including re-routing of the traffic pattern on the school campus or reducing vehicular traffic.

At Tuesday's meeting, Pavlini said some other solutions that could bring about an immediate reduction to the high school would be not letting seniors drive to school or preventing all vehicular traffic from entering the high school when buses are entering in the morning.

On a longer term basis, the school administration should conduct the traffic study and come up with a permanent reconfiguration of traffic, the mayor's letter said.

At the meeting, Deputy Mayor Carolyn Gaziano offered a long list of reasons why the municipal complex shouldn't serve as a dropoff location for buses loaded with high school students.

Later, she pointed out that most residents are unaware that two school buses would be unable to pass heading in opposite directions through the stone walls at the entrance to the municipal complex.

"The current municipal drive entrance off Collyer Lane is the single ingress and egress point for all police emergency vehicles with a need for unrestricted emergency response," Gaziano wrote as the first point in her list. "There is already a significant mix of pedestrian car and police vehicle traffic using the municipal driveway," she added.

Along with cars heading to nearby , additional traffic backed up on Collyer Lane and along South Finley Avenue waiting to turn would further block access in and out of the municipal complex, Gaziano wrote.

"With 27,000 residents, we must have access for emergency response," she said during the meeting.

Gaziano said the school district should consider other options for reducing backups at the light entering the high school, including giving seniors an optional first-period study hall.

Later, she said the school district could put a paved loop behind the high school that could be a separate route for vehicular traffic. But she added that she believes school officials do not want to spend the money to construct the traffic loop.

Although school officials have said publicly that one option is to have a two-way entrance through the health department, Gaziano said that a plan being discussed is to turn that into a one-way entrance. Another lane would be added for a short distance to the left of that entrance to keep apart vehicles and buses heading in the opposite direction, she said.

Frustrated Homestead Village residents said they feel like they are stuck between township and school officials in trying to reach a solution.

"It feels like it's a tennis match," said resident Nina Rayburn. She said the situation will become more dangerous when landscapers begin parking along narrow roads, and more people are out walking on streets in warm weather.

"Again, it's an accident waiting to happen," she said of the combination of added buses, cars heading to the high school, and local pedestrians.

Resident Brian Meagher said that school buses are not obeying stop signs.

Pavlini's letter repeated an earlier request by the at this time.

parag dhagat March 31, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Consider this... The BOE has a budget of +/- $ 100million and a property that is larger than 65 acres. It still expects help from the Township and the Police Department to have their SECSC buses parked on Township property. It still expexts that the Health Department must provide it egress and now maybe an ingress too! It expects one of the oldest neighborhood in Bernards Township, The Homestead Village, to never be able to buy up Homstead Village roads as part of a Homeowners association buyup of village roads, so as to have a quieter neighborhood, because the Cedarhill entrance is used not just for elemantary school traffic but now also for High school traffic! The BOE is so incapable of handling its own facilities rearrangement at the high school, that in 1999, the Township had to buy up 274 South Finley and split it from its neighborhood, and then some....had to surround it with roads in its new setting, and still the ingress/egress problem is not yet resolved!? To top this all of, as if it was not enough, they spent 70-80 million on the highschool in 2005-7, of the tax payers money, and still did not set up a proper/multiple exit/entry. All of this so the rich, fat cats kids and their supporters can pay a measely $ 50/- -parkingspace charge?! Shame on people who complain about the neighborhood around the school. we already allow the police cars and crossing guards to park in our driveways, just so the whole township has a safer back and forth around the high school.
parag dhagat March 31, 2012 at 11:06 PM
Anticipating more traffic for the right reasons by school neighbors is understandable, but at $ 50/- a shot for parking when a kid within the 2.5 mile radius has to pay $ 700/- to bus in! That is ridiculously unsupportable. Then to consider that an ingress must be prepared using tax payers monies so such ingrates can have a semi-private entrance through the health department, under pretext of easing traffic at Ridge?! There are veterans who live in this neighborhood, who have given a lot of their life just so you can have yours...it feels sad to see them having to come to the Township meetings trying to make the Township committee members understand that the township needs to stop being voraciously luxury hungry. All that open space consumed for the luxury of rich, fat cats' kids. Whether they be democrat or republican...doesn't matter! Then there are the likes of BRER who want to argue for the fat ctas kid and not care about how it affects the local veterans life!....just because he picked to live near the school in Homestead Village.
rescue April 01, 2012 at 12:10 PM
BRER, you are right that the roads are public property but so is the Municipal Complex. If the township committee can’t (or won’t) stop the buses going through Homestead Village then they shouldn’t stop them from going through the Municipal Complex. It is time the Township stopped “playing games” and helped find a solution to the problem. Let us not forget that they approved the expansion of Ridge, knew there would be traffic problems, and had approved access through the Municipal Complex at the time of the expansion.
Laura April 01, 2012 at 12:46 PM
Not all public properties are "roads", let alone public roadways designed for traffic. The access to the municipal property is just a narrow driveway- two buses can't can't even pass through the entrance at the same time. If traffic gets tied up at the light at the high school, it will be far worse having buses and cars making the turns at the difficult intersection where Collyer meets South Finley, which will in turn back up vehicles exiting (and trying to enter) the driveway at town hall. Add in St. James traffic, all the kids who park on Collyer Lane and walk up that driveway (no sidewalk) and that police need to exit there in an emergency and it's as much a recipe for disaster as Homestead Village. Is the position of those residents that they don't care if it's dangerous, just not in our backyard? The buses belong at the high school with re-configured driveways. The BOE is trying to foist the cost of fixing this onto the rest of the town so they can spend more of their budget on administration and salaries.
parag dhagat April 01, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Very true. but first charge the 'parkers' much higher sums ($ 700/- per), then see how many come and park?! The ones that do not park any more will increase the 'circulator' count,, which can then be tackled by providing proper new circulation routes and entrances, by buying up some property.......instead of providing the 'parkers' an easy out with a semi-private entrance through the health department! Why keep giving them more?! There are reporters in our midst that have gratuated from this high school, who say this problem has persisted since the 1970's.... something has to be done to solve this problem for good! WITHOUT DOLING OUT MORE FOR THE PARKERS and at the expense of destroying more open space with 'Y' shaped crooked, tarred roads and what not!


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