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Elementary slowdown

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Photo by Walter Sprague/NLJ The Wyoming Department of Transportation is in the process of decreasing the speed to 30 mph near Newcastle Elementary School during peak drop-off and pick-up times. Once the flasher are installed, the speed will officially drop to 30 mph for one hour every morning and one hour every afternoon.
Alexis Barker

WYDOT to reduce speeds during school times

Following up on concerns from Weston County School District No. 1 and several residents, the Wyoming Department of Transportation is reducing speeds near Newcastle Elementary School, according to Michelle M. Edwards, the department’s District 4 traffic engineer — and school officials say the move will improve safety near the busy school approaches

“It has been several years in the making,” Superintendent Brad LaCroix told the News Letter Journal.

He explained that while the speed near the school has been a concern since the school was built, an accident resulting in a fatality several years ago was the tipping point, leading the school to discuss options with WYDOT to better keep everyone safe.

“There was a danger because of visibility (at drop-off and pick-up times) and speed. We looked at all kinds of options,” LaCroix said.

He noted that the options included additional egresses into the parking lot, but due to costs associated with the needed work, the school district asked the department to consider reducing speeds during certain hours of the day.

“Even with the visibility issue, you are not competing with someone going 70,” LaCroix said of the need for reduced speed. “Basically, we are getting people slowed down near the school area.”

The discussion with WYDOT resulted in a speed limit study on U.S. Highway 16 between mile markers 250 and 252.14, Edwards said in an email. This is the section of road with three lanes from roughly the Newcastle Travel Center to just past Ridgecrest Drive.

According to Edwards, the study determined a couple of different things.

“The first was the recommendation to the school district to utilize space in the Newcastle Elementary parking lot for vehicles to queue during school drop-off and pick-up times,” Edwards said in her email. “The second was the recommendation to lower the 45 mph speed limit during peak school times to 30 mph.”

She noted that crews will be installing the signage in the next few weeks.

“The 30 mph (takes effect) when flashing signs have been installed, but there are no flashers yet,” Edwards said. “We are waiting on some electrical equipment to be shipped to us. We expect to receive that equipment soon and installation should be complete within the next two weeks.”

As of right now, she said, the speed limit is still 45 mph throughout the entire section.

“Once the flashers are installed, they will be set to flash during the peak school times from 7:40 a.m. to 8:40 a.m. and 2:40 p.m. to 3:40 p.m., Monday through Friday, during the school year,” she said in her email. “During those times, the speed limit will be 30 mph. All other times of the day, the speed limit will remain at 45 mph.”

According to Edwards, this speed is a “bit different” than what most drivers are used to seeing in school zones during school hours in various towns.

“Per WYDOT standards, official school speed limit zones can only be installed on a highway when there is a school crosswalk or there are school children crossing the roadway,” Edwards said. “Since there is no crosswalk and there are not any children crossing in this area, this speed zone is not considered an official school speed limit zone, and thus does not have the typical fluorescent green school wording. We have installed a few of these “non-school” speed limit zones across the state, and they have worked.”

According to LaCroix, the school will still queue cars on the road and use what has been referred to as “the maze” to get as many vehicles off the roadway for drop-off and pick-up as possible. This is to help address the visibility issue.

“I understand it is somewhat inconvenient, but that is the problem with school safety. If you really do do it, safety comes with some inconvenience,” LaCroix said.

He noted that he feels the speed reduction is a step in the right direction.

“We hope everyone stays safe. That is the intention,” LaCroix said.

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