After more than six months of homework and research done by working groups made of up of Lakewood residents, city staff, Jefferson County Schools representatives, and members of the Lakewood Police …
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After more than six months of homework and research done by working groups made of up of Lakewood residents, city staff, Jefferson County Schools representatives, and members of the Lakewood Police and West Metro Fire District, potential solutions to parking woes at Lakewood High School may be in sight.
At a joint meeting with Lakewood City Council, the Jefferson County School Board and Superintendent Jason Glass on Feb. 26, the recommendations were presented by Kevin French, senior transportation engineer with WSP, a professional engineering services firm hired to work on the project.
“Lakewood has a unique traffic issues situation because this school is in the middle of a neighborhood,” French said. “With 2,100 students at the school, there are a number of challenges we’re facing, including more students of driving age, work on 8th Avenue, and resident and guest parking restrictions.”
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The recommendations presented for council to fall into two phases, and includes readily implementable on-campus parking improvements that can provide an additional 131 spaces on-campus. These improvements can be accomplished within existing operating budgets and will alleviate much of the demand for parking in the adjacent neighborhood, according to the presentation.
The existing neighborhood resident and guest parking restrictions, with time modification, are recommended to stay in place to keep school traffic preferring the campus parking spots.
A key part of the plan is the restriping of the student lot which provides an additional 93 spaces and allow use of wider aisles for drop-off and pick-up activities. Parking should be provided on Johnson Street, once designated one-way southbound, and on the south side of the school.
Future parking areas adjacent to the baseball field, on the north side of faculty lot, and on west side of student lot should be pursued in the future as parking demands dictate and construction funds are identified.
Another feature of the plan is improving circulation and access to the school, particularly from Kipling Street. The hope is this will reduce congestion at the school, improved access to parking on-campus, and improved drop-off/pick-up operations.
The plan calls for 8th Avenue to receive a multi-way stop control at entrance to the student lot. Implementation of one-way southbound on Johnson Street is also a key component for relieving traffic congestion at intersections on 9th Avenue and provides space for additional parking spaces.
There is also a call for implementation of one-way couplet for Holland Street (one-way northbound south of 8th Avenue) and Independence Street is also important to reduce conflict points and reduce congestion. Extra space on Holland Street will be available for drop-off/pick-up activities. A one-way southbound on Independence Street eliminates drop-off activity on the east side of street, reduces conflicts to improve traffic flow, prevents u-turns in private driveways, and provides space for on-street path to improve student safety between the school and US-6 Frontage Road sidewalk.
Finally, the plan states the gate on the west side of the faculty lot should be removed and two-way traffic allowed connecting the student lot to Independence Avenue. A raised crossing should be implemented on the west side of the faculty lot to discourage cut-through traffic and encourage slower speeds.
“I do believe there’s reason for optimism with this plan,” said Tim Reed, with Jeffco Schools’ facilities and construction management department. “This approach should be viewed as incremental steps — we’ll try them out and see what works, what doesn’t, and make changes when we needed.”
Many of the residents who have been asking for something to be done for years turned out to support the plan, even though it is far from perfect for everyone.
“I have lived with this issue my entire life, and we’ve been waiting for something significant to be done for 20 years,” said Kaulin Waldner, who has lived in the neighborhood for the bulk of his life. “A lot of these proposals could extended the problems another 20 years if not properly handled.”
Most of the neighbors are in favor of any options that increase the parking capacity at the school, but voiced concern about turning area streets into one-ways and adding hours to parking restriction signs.
Parking from sports events and special events at the high school during evenings and weekends is also a constant source of vexation for neighbors, and that’s something many spoke about addressing.
“We’re looking to share information online about coming events, so neighbors at least have a heads up,” Principal Daniel Bock. “Neighbors can join an email list that will notify them about upcoming events.”
Since interest from prospective students in the high school shows no sign of slacking, concern about many more students the school and neighborhood can take was a frequent question.
Currently, the school has about 404 park spaces, and with about 1,204 students being “choice-in” students from outside the immediate neighborhood, that means there’s considerably more cars than room for.
The school hands out 20 percent more permits than spots available, since not all permitted students are on campus at any one time. A permit costs $125 a year.
In 2013, the City of Lakewood’s Public Works Department worked with the school to create no parking areas around the neighborhood. Street signs were also installed so students would know where they couldn’t park.
Neighbors said that for several years the signs made a difference and complaints diminished. But in the past several years, problems have arisen again with students parking further into the neighborhood, and congestion coming from parents dropping off and picking up their kids.
“No matter which way we go, it’s going to pinch a bit on every side,” said Ward 1 councilmember Charley Able. “There are going to be irritation for both students and neighbors during this process.”
Residents urged council to keep the momentum going, and actually get some changes implemented.
“For many people in this room, it’s been years of this discussion,” said one resident. “My point is what’s next? Let’s move forward - we know what’s the problems are, but not going to solve them if we keep talking. Be leaders and move us forward.”
At the meeting’s end, council directed staff to get more details on a variety of questions, including implementation of the phases and what one-ways would do to traffic in the area. Even at earliest, most of this work couldn’t be done until the summer, when students are away from campus.
But it’s a start.
“We’ve taken a big step forward tonight,” said Ron Mitchell, president of the Jeffco school board. “I know that if we work together we can find ways to move this project forward.”
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