JCPS traffic dispute in Lyndon neighborhood may cost taxpayers $ - WDRB 41 Louisville News

JCPS traffic dispute in Lyndon neighborhood may cost taxpayers $150,000 to fix

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This is the back gate of Bowen Elementary School that opens onto Earlham Drive, which is located in the city of Moorland in eastern Jefferson County. This is the back gate of Bowen Elementary School that opens onto Earlham Drive, which is located in the city of Moorland in eastern Jefferson County.
Google map of Bowen Elementary School and surrounding neighborhoods Google map of Bowen Elementary School and surrounding neighborhoods
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A traffic dispute between Bowen Elementary and its neighbors in Lyndon may soon cause Jefferson County Public Schools to spend $150,000 to build a new road.

Since 1998, Bowen and the city of Moorland, located next to the school off LaGrange Road, have shared a memorandum of understanding, allowing the school to use Earlham Drive as a second entrance and exit to its parking lot -- but the city has informed the school it wants out of that agreement.

"We inform you that at the conclusion of this school year, the City of Moorland will install a fence on city property where it abuts Bowen property at the west end of Earlham Drive to effectively close the right-of-way thereby preventing vehicle and pedestrian traffic from entering the City of Moorland from Bowen Elementary," wrote David Chervenak, Moorland's mayor in a letter dated Feb. 6 that was sent to the school.

Principal Steve Tyra said he has been in contact with the Moorland Board of Commissioners several times over the past few years to assist them in dealing with dozens of vehicles parking on Earlham Drive and Claremoor Drive, even though not all the vehicles parking on those roads belong to Bowen families.

"I have been sympathetic and I have made several accommodations to relieve the situation," Tyra said. "I've expanded our parking lot to provide more space for cars, I've assigned six staff members to work the parking lot daily to keep the traffic flow moving so there are not regular backups of traffic into the neighborhood."

Tyra said he's also printed articles in parent newsletters and he has restricted the use of the Earlham entrance to the school's parking lot to afternoons only on school days. He says the gate is not used in the mornings, on weekends on holidays or during the summer.

"We use the entrance for about and an hour and a half each afternoon for our car riders to enter and exit the parking lot," he said. "In addition, a lot of our students live in the neighborhood and use Earlham Drive to walk to and from school."

Mike Raisor, chief operations officer for JCPS, told school board members Monday night that if an agreement isn't reached between the school and the city, the district will have to build a new road -- something he estimates could cost $150,000.

"It would be a tragedy if we had to spend money that could be spent on kids to build a driveway," Raisor said during a community forum held at Bowen on Thursday night. "It is my sincere hope that this waste of taxpayer money can be avoided."

Tyra says the Earlham Drive entrance/exit was "designed in order to protect students." Prior to the gate, there was only one entrance to the school grounds, which was problematic for emergency responders and for school dismissal and evacuation plans, he said.

Major John Stich with the Lyndon Fire Department agrees and wrote a letter to Chervenek on Feb. 11, asking he reconsider the city's plan to close the entrance "because of the increase(d) risk to public safety."

"Without the rear Earlham Drive access point, all buses and cars will have to enter and exit by way off the front entrance off Roosevelt Avenue," Stich wrote. "Buses will go to the front doors and cars will go to the rear using the north side access road. This will cause congestion and block our access."

Stich notes "this is how it was done prior to the construction of the Earlham Drive entrance and it caused problems for us then."

"Presently, cars exit the property through Earlham Drive to Brentmoore Driveand onto LaGrange Road at a traffic signal controlled intersection," Stich continued. "If Earlham Drive is closed off, all cars and buses will utilize the Roosevelt Avenue entrance and will have to exit on LaGrange Road at a non-signal controlled intersection. This will increase the risk posed to students, parents, employees and the public."

Rebecca Berry lives with her daughter and parents in Moorland and says they are against the closing of Earlham Drive to the school.

"Yes, there is a lot of traffic in the afternoon, but we knew that when we moved here -- that's what happens when you live by a school," said Berry, whose daughter attended Bowen for six years. "Most of the people who park on the streets are residents or visitors of residents."

Berry added that the "vast majority of people who visit Bowen park in the parking lot and access that lot through Roosevelt Avenue."

"I work third shift and I am home when the school dismisses, so I see what happens," she said.

Tyra said he hopes an agreement can be reached with the city of Moorland. 

If not, the district will have to look at other options, including building another road, Raisor said.

"The money we would spend on this project would directly impact our ability to fund other district initiatives," Raisor said. 

Chervenak told WDRB News Friday afternoon that he doesn't believe the two sides will be able to come to an agreement.

"There is just too much congestion and we can't accommodate it anymore," Chervenak said. "People are speeding through the City of Moorland, they are running stop signs and they are illegally parking on our streets. Their solution for the traffic has created nothing but problems for us."

Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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