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Accident reignites pedestrian safety discussion

Central Kitsap School District has not been distributing walk route plans or maps to students but updates appear to be coming following a Dec. 12 accident when a 17-year-old student was hit.

According to Paul Nash, the principal at Cottonwood Elementary, the school hasn’t updated its policy the last few years. Nash said the walk routes need to be updated, and that the school is in the process of looking at them, hoping to have an updated plan available by January.

Washington state regulations require every school district to have suggested walk routes in place for every elementary school, covering a one-mile distance from the school.

The Washington Administrative Code stated regarding walk routes, “The route to school plan shall be distributed to all students with instructions that it be taken home and discussed with parents,” (WAC 392-151-025).

According to David Beil, Central Kitsap School District community relations director, the district has not been distributing walk route plans or maps to students or parents.

Beil said, because of recent state policy changes regarding the areas covered by walk routes, Central Kitsap School District is reviewing its routes and hopes to have them updated and ready for parents and students by next school year, possibly sooner.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction advises districts to reduce liability by conducting regular reviews of the walk routes and establishing policy for walk route development.

Since Woodlands and Cottonwood are near Central Valley Road, the majority of suggested walking routes have students traveling along or crossing Central Valley Road.

The crosswalks at the elementary schools are controlled by crossing guards in the morning. The junior high doesn’t have the same protections.

When a 17-year-old Olympic High School student was struck in the middle of a crosswalk inside a school zone on Central Valley Road  Dec. 12, pedestrian safety once again became a topic of importance.

Less than two months before, Cassidy Ann Holtzman was hit and killed in Port Orchard on her way to catch her school bus.

Both events occurred in the early morning hours, involving students on their way to school.

In Jan. 2009, at the same Central Valley intersection in which the girl was struck Dec. 12, another pedestrian was hit.

The 2009 incident occurred at 7:13 a.m., nearly the same time as the recent collision.

The driver was following a school bus south on Central Valley Road that morning in 2009, when the bus turned into the Fairview Junior High parking lot a couple hundred feet north of the crosswalk.

The driver proceeded south, striking a 12-year-old Fairview Junior High student in the crosswalk.

In both the 2009 and the recent collisions, it was dark when the pedestrians were hit.

Kitsap County received a federal safety grant in 2009 from WSDOT to address safety improvements on rural county roads.

A press release from Kitsap County Public Works stated, “Part of the grant involved identifying several locations with collisions attributed to dark areas of the roadway. Several new street lights were installed at intersections, and along a couple of short sections of rural roadways.”

In 2010, the county was awarded another grant. This grant, however, did not limit the county to rural roads.

“Through this grant, 31 locations were identified where improved street lighting could improve safety,” the release stated.

Two locations on Central Valley Road were identified as locations that would benefit from improved lighting: at the intersection of Levin Road north of Waaga Way and at the intersection of Foster drive, just north of Fairview near Cottonwood Elementary.

Central Valley Road south of Waaga Way has three Central Kitsap District schools, two elementary schools and a junior high. Woodlands Elementary, Cottonwood Elementary and Fairview Junior High are all within one mile of each other.

According to the 2001 National Household Transportation Survey, 63 percent of students living within one mile of school walk or bike to class.

At least seven collisions involving pedestrians and one involving a bicyclist have occurred on Central Valley just in the space between Woodlands Elementary and Fairview Junior High since 2001.

That is a distance of less than half a mile.

Six of those collisions occurred in the morning at or before 7:30 a.m., a time when students are walking to school, often in the dark.

Since 2009, Public Works has received five calls from members of the public concerned with safety on Central Valley Road. Specifically, the area south of Waaga Way is highlighted among them.

The first complaint, raised in 2009, said, “Students are walking in the area in all types of weather and in all levels of darkness.”

Another complaint, raised in 2011, addressed concern about the small size of the road’s shoulders and lack of any sidewalks.

There are no sidewalks along the stretch of Central Valley Road from Waaga Way down past all three schools. Pedestrians are more than twice as likely to be struck by a vehicle in locations without sidewalks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2012, a resident again raised concerns about the street’s safety, especially for an area with three schools:

“We need to have better, more visible signage on Central Valley Road to protect the children, from three schools, all who must travel along this road during dark, rainy or just busy traffic times.”

Jeff Shea, a Kitsap County traffic engineer, said the county commissioners will have the option to approve the lighting proposal for the 31 locations on Jan. 15, 2013.

 

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