Letter to City Council
Re: 17R-190 School Zone near 84th & Leighton Ave
August 16, 2017
City Council Members,
I appreciate and share your genuine concern for the safety of the children and adults who cross 84th Street and Leighton Avenue. The City has a responsibility to protect our citizens and we take that responsibility to heart. That intersection is currently highly-controlled with traffic signals in all four directions, push button pedestrian crossings, and prepare-to-stop flashers ahead of the intersection in both directions.
While I greatly respect the position of the people advocating for a school zone, it is critical that we rely on engineering data to make these decisions. It is not in the best interest of the children or the general public to ignore scientific evidence.
As it stands, the engineering finding we have is that the school zone would be less safe than the current situation. The City Engineer, Lonnie Burklund, followed the state requirements for analysis and study of the intersection and determined that a school zone in this location will compromise the safety of those using it, including children. Lonnie is a talented and dedicated public servant and I have great confidence in his analysis.
The Law Department has also advised that in order to install a school zone, a professional licensed engineer must certify that a school zone is both safe and in accordance with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and State Law.
Rather than veto 17R-190 I am offering a compromise approach that involves two studies - one specific and one more comprehensive.
First, several Council members have asked about the possibility of a second study to analyze if a school zone is warranted at 84th & Leighton. I have no problem having our work scrutinized precisely because I know the high caliber of work delivered by our city professionals and I respect the expertise of our City engineers. I am willing to engage an independent, private sector engineer to conduct an additional engineering study of the type necessary before taking action to install a school zone. If the second opinion definitively concludes a school zone is safer than the current situation, I will move to execute the Council's directive. If the independent analysis does not find that installing a school zone at that location is appropriate, or if no one is willing to undertake the study, then State Law continues to disallow a school zone at this location.
The Request for Proposal (RFP) will follow the City's usual and customary process. It will include the available traffic data and conditions around 84th & Leighton and request an independent engineering analysis to determine if a school zone is appropriate. The selection of the engineer will be based on their professional qualifications and not dependent on a predetermined outcome.
Second, a comprehensive, ongoing school pedestrian safety review for all existing and future school speed zone locations will be conducted to review safety strategies and opportunities for improvements. That study would also include an evaluation of implementing a professional school crossing guard program at pilot locations as one of the safety strategies. The process would engage all stakeholders (parents, LPS, engineers, city staff, and more).
We all share the common goal of safety for our families and for our kids. I believe this approach allows us to continue working together - families, school officials, community leaders, safety professionals, and more - to ensure that safety.