Congestion on Southridge Boulevard during school mornings and afternoons likely is to continue, at least for the time being.
The Kennewick School Board agreed Wednesday night not to push for immediate changes after city officials assured the district that road improvements planned for the area this year should ease the problem.
"It will take care of itself in time," said board member Heather Kintzley.
Southridge High School sits along Southridge Boulevard and both of its large parking lots require drivers to use it to leave the area. In addition to traffic jams, there have been accidents on the road, including one on Feb. 22 that hurt a driver. The school has about 1,400 students.
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Superintendent Dave Bond said he made several proposals to John Deskins, the city's traffic engineer, about possible changes to the road to make it safer. The proposals included lowering the current 45 mph speed limit to a 20 mph school zone, installing beacons or lights that flash at specific times of the day or creating a variable speed zone.
Deskins, in a letter to the district, said those proposals have several problems:
w State law makes a school speed zone designation available only at elementary and middle schools where there are student walkers. Deskins said Southridge High School has virtually no students who walk to and from school. High schoolers also are better able to judge traffic conditions.
w Beacons or flashing lights would cost $60,000 to $100,000 and would be the school district's responsibility, Deskins said. Bond told the board that other schools in the district need beacons and providing them at Southridge could be a financial strain.
w Variable speed zones typically are used on mountain passes and also would cost about $60,000 to $100,000. Deskins said he didn't know of such a system being used around a high school.
Overall, Deskins suggested other factors beyond the city's or district's control contribute to accidents in the area.
"Please also note that although speed is a factor in a few of the crashes around the high school, most are due to driver inattentiveness," he said in the letter.
Kennewick plans to extend Ridgeline Drive from Highway 395 to Southridge Boulevard near the student parking lot at the high school. That would provide another way for students to leave the campus without having to deal with the troubled intersection.
Also, two traffic lights on Hildebrand Road -- one at the Southridge intersection and another closer to 395 -- and two roundabouts on the extension of Ridgeline are planned for this year because of anticipated development in the area.
Bond said he is set to meet with city officials Monday about the issue and that he may still request some temporary measures, such as requesting a policeman during high congestion times, to mitigate the problems for the time being.