The Scotch Plains Town Council remains unable to solve the parking and safety debacle surrounding student drop-off at .
At Tuesday’s meeting, the council decided to end the overseen by Sargent Ernie Hernandez and lift all traffic restrictions pending further discussion with the Police Department, the Board of Education, neighborhood representatives, and the PTA.
The pilot program, which began in March, had been designed after a detailed traffic study with the objective of creating a safer alternative for student drop off. The pilot was also intended to alleviate traffic on neighboring roadways, namely Homestead Terrace, Cedarbrook Road, Redwood Road, and Woodland Terrace.
The pilot program created a drop off point at the intersection of Homestead Terrace and Westfield Road. Parking was restricted on neighboring streets and a crossing guard was hired to direct two to three cars at a time to drop of students at the intersection and then clear the area.
Now that the program has been terminated, a crossing guard will remain at the intersection, but parking restrictions put in place during the pilot will be lifted. However, police will continue to restrict traffic at Homestead Terrace and Cedarbrook Road, mandating a 75 foot clearance section at that intersection.
To complicate the discussion even further, the council noted the presence of two conflicting memos from the Police Department. Chief Mahoney recommended continuing the pilot program until the end of the year and reassessing in July, while Sgt. Hernandez urged the council to end a “dangerous and ineffective” program, offering another solution that called for additional parking restrictions.
The council clearly frustrated with the lack of answers, spoke freely about how the program has affected residents.
“We might have learned something from this study, but it still doesn’t address original problem,” Councilman Bo Vastine said. “Our streets are still clogged with debris and cars, and if we don’t find a solution, we are putting kids back in the street with moving traffic.”
Councilman Mickey Marcus expressed that the Council should not make any decisions regarding the drop off without the presence of all parties affected – including Scotch Plains Police.
“No one is here from the Police Department, the PTA or from the Board of Education,” Marcus said. “This is a huge problem. We need better communication. We should not make a decision without involving these other parties. We should have asked representatives to come to this meeting to discuss this.”
A Homestead Terrace resident present at the meeting was eager to speak about how the pilot program has affected her life.
“The whole area is a mishmash of confusion. Clearly, the pilot program is very dangerous for the kids… There is a terrible lack of communication. I got a note on my car saying that I couldn’t park in front of my house – that’s it! It doesn’t seem like the BOE is interested in looking for a reasonable solution.”
Councilman Kevin Glover also stated that the Board of Education should be more open to budgeting funds to build a safe drop off center on school grounds.
“The real solution cannot be found here,” Glover said. “Years ago, when we encountered the same problem at the high school, the problem went away when we and created a drop off point on school property. A feasibility study should be done by [Town Engineer] Joe Timko and the BOE needs to be able to consider reasonable solutions.”
A crossing guard will remain at the intersection of Homestead Terrace and Westfield Road through the end of the year as the council works together with police and the Brunner community to solve this problem. What do you think should be done? Tell us in the comments and vote in the poll.