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Safety Commission Calls Willow Lane Traffic 'Horrendous'

Parents of Willow Lane Elementary students want to know what the township can do to keep their children safe if they must walk to school in the fall.

After a meeting at the school and addressing the East Penn School Board twice, several parents of children who attend Willow Lane Elementary School addressed Lower Macungie Township's Public Safety Commission.

And an ad hoc member of the commission flat out said the Willow and Sauerkraut lanes intersection is unsafe for children to be walking.

Susan Coenen, a parent and resident of Brookside Farms, asked the commissioners at the Tuesday meeting what they planned to do for the children who are supposed to begin walking to school in the fall.

The East Penn School District, claiming Willow Lane was designed as a "walking school," had been busing all students since the school opened in fall 2010. But in an effort to save $65,000 in the 2013 budget, the district has said that students who live within a 1.5-mile radius will no longer be bused as of August 2013.

Commissioner Scott Forbes told Coenen that the township has committed $85,000 of the 2013 budget to signage and blinking "school zone" lights that are supposed to be installed before the end of the summer.

Lower Macungie Township Commissioner Roger Reis -- a liaison to the Public Safety Commission with Commissioner Doug Brown -- said the township is working with the school district to reduce the speed of cars on Willow and Sauerkraut lanes.

He assured Coenen that there would also be public meetings at which parents could offer suggestions.

"We can't think of everything. We like to hear from parents. No final decisions have been made yet. Everything is being reexamined, re-studied and reconsidered," Reis said.

Coenen replied that she finds it "disconcerting" that neither the township nor the school district has "taken ownership" of the issue in an attempt to solve it.

Parent Lee LaRussa, a physician, said studies have shown that people will not walk the mile and a half the school district claims is appropriate.

"They don't walk that far. The Walkability Study considers only the buses and the walkers. But there will be hundreds of cars coming to the school each morning," he said, noting there was no provision in the study that addresses how that kind of traffic volume will be handled.

Peter Pavlovic, who was an ad hoc member of the commission at the beginning of the meeting and had been voted in as a sitting Public Safety Commissioner by the end, said he has spent time sitting and watching the intersection and the habits of the people who drive it.

“I can honestly say it’s unsafe for East Penn to make Willow Lane a walking school,” Pavlovic said.

“Willow Lane is a state highway and people drive it as one….the traffic is horrendous.”

The commission put together a bulleted list of concerns about students walking to Willow Lane Elementary that Reis and Brown will present when the township commissioners meet Thursday.

Issues include

  • Increased traffic
  • Identification of walking paths and how the paths will be maintained – especially in snow – and how it will be enforced.
  • Modifications to crosswalks
  • Enforcement assistance from State Police at Fogelsville
  • The staging of pick-up and drop-off periods
Mark Spengler December 19, 2012 at 11:37 AM
Special thanks to committee chairmen Scott Forbes and the commissioners who were present for answering questions. Also a terrific job by parents bringing their concerns to the township level.
KilgoreTrout December 19, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Why does the speed limit on Sauerkraut increase to 35 mph (going east) with the block that the school is located? Not that you will find many drivers going that slow. The 25 mph western portion is also hazardous, as so many people feel the speed signs are simply advisory in nature. This is a dangerous road, treat it as such.
ted.dobracki December 19, 2012 at 02:03 PM
The article indirectly points out one of the biggest problems in this whole debacle when it suggests that one of the issues is "asking for enforcement assistance from Pennsylvania state police at Fogelsville." The absence of a regular locally controlled police force continues to be a problem in LMT, and that was one of many reasons why in 1990 that the EPSD school board decided not to build a high school on Rt 100 in a much more dangerous area.
Ron Beitler December 19, 2012 at 02:48 PM
@Kilgore I'm currently advocating for reduction of speed limit on WIllow Lane. This is a tougher nut to crack since Willow is a state Rd. I'm hoping to set up a meeting with our state rep to explore options. Perhaps circulate a petition. Note we successfully got Millcreek Rd recently reduced. http://www.ronbeitler.com/2012/07/18/how-residents-can-address-speeding-concerns/
Ron Beitler December 19, 2012 at 02:52 PM
@ Kilgore - This is going to be an issue in the upcoming election. Currently I am happy with the way the board is handling this situation. They have moved forward with a study of options. Its VERY important the residents are involved in this process. Once you cross the bridge to a municipal police dept you can never go back. This issue is tied hand in hand with property taxes. Everyone wants a PD but no one wants to pay for it. Thats the crux of the issue and the larger discussion we need to have. If the study shows that DATA supports a change to the current arrangement then we need to consider all options which are: Regionalization "going it alone" Contracting out Remaining with PSP I'm not currently in favor of one over another, but rather a conversation of the pro's and con's of each option. The discussion will be a balance between needs of the community and tax implications.
Ron Beitler December 19, 2012 at 04:08 PM
What we need to monitor is if they tact to one over another before options are presented. Then the process by which they engage the public. This cannot be another MOU like Jaindl... the public HAS to be involved.
Scott Alderfer December 19, 2012 at 04:31 PM
The parents are a big part of the problem. They set poor examples for other drivers in the neighborhoods around the school. I routinely see people who live in Brandywine Village I and Graymoor blowing through the stop signs from the side streets to pull onto Sauerkraut Lane and speeding along Sauerkraut. This morning while I was waiting in the line of cars at the school to drop off my daughter (she has problems making it to the bus on time), I saw two near-misses as parents sped up the driveway passing the line of cars and turned into the lane going to the parking lot to drop off their kids outside of the designated drop off area. At the parent meeting at the school on Nov. 27, I could only hear half of what was being said because of all of the parents around me having side conversations. Until Willow Lane parents can respect other parents and drive like they respect other parents' kids, it will always too dangerous to walk to Willow Lane School.
KilgoreTrout December 19, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Agreed, I have trouble getting through the cluster of cars around the school bus stop and I'm scared of kids just running out into the street from between cars. This has happened more than once. Parents think nothing of blocking intersections, too. Parents don't even walk with their children to the bus stop, and now their going to walk to the school ??? Dream on. They'll drive and they will drive as recklessly as they do now, or maybe even more so (time pressure ya know). The area around Willow Lane will look like Route 22 at rush hour: jammed with people making crazy moves any chance they get.
ted.dobracki December 23, 2012 at 07:53 PM
@ron - whatever LMT does about establishing its own locally controlled police force is about 35-40 years too late.

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