|Image from Northside ISD|
Will you be adding a light or crosswalk on West FM 471 in front of the new Harlan High School opening this year? I've already seen many children running back and forth across this street that is filled with large trucks from the quarry down the street.
The big picture
The first thing - and most important thing - we want people to know is we have a traffic signal study planned at the intersection of FM 471 and Cheyenne Pass in September to determine the actual, data-driven need for a signal at this location to accommodate both traffic coming out of the subdivision and the pedestrian traffic you've already started to observe. You can read more about how that warrant study works in a previous post we had about how we determine when and where to install traffic signals.
Right now we actually do not want anyone crossing FM 471 near Harlan High School - we do not have any pedestrian protections and crossing FM 471 at this location is extremely dangerous. Northside ISD will provide buses for students in that community to cut down the potential of kids trying to dart across in front of the heavy trucks cruising through there. We are installing signs to discourage the practice and will rely on law enforcement to keep kids from ignoring these signs.
To recap, here is what we are doing (and what we are not doing):
- We are conducting a traffic signal and pedestrian study in September, once traffic around the school normalizes
- We are working with Northside ISD to post signs prohibiting pedestrian traffic along FM 471 near Harland High School
- We are posting signs with flashing yellow beacons on FM 471 around the high school to encourage drivers to slow down
- We are not ignoring the issue or unaware
- We are not taking the issue lightly, and are thus working closely with school administration and county staff to ensure we're seeing things from all angles
Future pedestrian accommodations
When the county's work on FM 471 is finished (it extends to Old FM 471 - just shy Harlan High School) bike lanes and sidewalks will help pedestrian students get almost all the way to campus. We already have a project on the books to address the issue further and will continue what the county is doing for us all the way out to the Bexar-Medina county line. That project is scheduled to get going in 2021, but we are looking at options to accelerate that plan.
We need traffic signals
As for the pedestrian need, those warrant standards actually tell us to construct a pedestrian bridge and exercise every other available option before installing a signal to manage a crosswalk. We are following that directive by working with the school district to ensure kids don't have the need to walk across the busy road.
The big takeaway
If you're a resident of the area and do not have a student at Harlan, please realize students will be coming and going from about 6:30 a.m. until after 6 p.m. Extracurricular activities run both before and after normal school hours. It also means you'll be driving through two high school areas on your way to Loop 1604 with Taft High School just down the road. That first two weeks is going to be rough - but not just for you. It's going to be rough for everyone across the county, with hundreds of thousands of kiddos headed to school after being off the last three months.
We know of the need to take a look at the area around Harlan High School, and we're doing just that. We are working with the county and the school district to identify and address issues. We know there are many who may observe some issues and write in or call in - we hope these folks will get this message and know we are already working on solutions. (In fact ... we would ask you to post this to your community's Facebook page or NextDoor thread to ensure the word gets around.) Until the traffic situation normalizes we cannot predict exactly how traffic will behave, and we need to know exactly what we are dealing with to really make the right things happen.
The bottom line: we are all going to struggle together to figure out the new traffic patterns that come with school. After those first two weeks we will look at the situation around this new school (and others) and determine what, if anything, can be done to address any outstanding issues.
Between now and then, be safe and drive smart! And don't try passing any school buses!