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School safety behind projects at trio of Burbank schools

School safety behind projects at trio of Burbank schools
Parents and students line up outside classrooms as they wait for school to begin at Thomas Jefferson Elementary. The school is one of three due for safety upgrades as part of the city of Burbank's Safe Routes to School project. (File Photo)

School traffic safety improvements designated for George Washington and Thomas Jefferson elementary schools and John Muir Middle School are closer to becoming reality.

Members of the city of Burbank’s Transportation Department will present a series of designs and proposals to the City Council on Nov. 13 regarding upgrades at all three schools, with plans to begin work this winter.

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Transportation associate planner Hannah Woo gave a preview of the projects during the second Safe Routes to School Project community meeting held on Oct. 18 in the Burbank Community Services building.

Woo said the goal was “to build a better Burbank.”

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She added the projects did that by improving safety for children walking and biking to school, encouraging more students to walk and bike, reducing traffic injuries, raising health benefits through increased physical activity and improving air quality.

The improvements include high-visibility crosswalks, all-way stop signs, speed humps and 15-mph speed zones at all three schools, along with some curb ramps and extensions.

In order for the projects to proceed, City Council members must vote in policy changes in regards to the speed zones, all-way stop signs and speed humps.

For instance, installation of a four-way stop sign requires an engineering study, while nearby residents generally need to agree to the addition of a speed hump.

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Transportation officials are hoping the city will expedite the process by “lowering the threshold of the engineering study,” according to Woo, while bypassing the neighborhood petition process for speed humps.

A high-visibility crosswalk, which consists of several yellow-striped bars versus two parallel yellow lines, was installed on Eton Drive and Sixth Street at the corner of Jefferson Elementary two years earlier.

The project at Jefferson calls for the addition of six high-visibility crosswalks, two all-way stops signs and two curb ramps, along with an extension at Cambridge Drive and Sixth Street.

The changes taking place near Jefferson are what interested Burbank resident Jackie Bodley.

“I live on Cambridge, right close to Jefferson,” she said. “Our concern was the speeding going up and down the street and the safety of the kids.”

John Muir Middle School’s improvements will include eight high-visibility crosswalks, two all-way stop signs and seven curb ramps, while two high-visibility crosswalks, three curb ramps, one all-way stop sign and a curb extension will be added at Washington Elementary.

All of the changes came about after a series of walking and bike safety audits and surveys from residents living around the three schools pointed to many problems.

Drivers were often speeding and rolling through stop signs, pedestrians jaywalked, children said they felt unsafe biking to school and congestion caused school drop-off and pick-up areas to be dangerous.

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While the project addresses many issues, others were left off the table.

“Another thing we heard from our outreach is schools and parents saying that they really want more crossing guards,” Woo said. “Crossing guards are expensive, and the school’s budget and the city’s budget are very tight.”

The Safe Routes to School project is funded by a $490,000 grant from Caltrans.

Burbank resident Zainab Rogers has a child attending Washington and another at Muir and was also interested in what improvements were taking place.

“My two kiddos here are what are most important to me,” Rogers said. “I wanted to hear the feedback today and give my input. I’m glad they’re taking action for these types of issues.”

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