Bill Wisbauer of the construction management firm Tetra Tech and Louis Rodriguez of The Palombo Group gave a presentation to the New Paltz Central School District Board of Education at its regular meeting on Wednesday, February 3 regarding traffic congestion issues at the middle school. The design plans are anticipated to solve the current problems within the parking lot and traffic congestion leading into and out of it, but schools Superintendent Maria Rice cautioned that the community should be made aware that the parking lot improvements would, by necessity, be among the last of the construction projects undertaken in the district and will not be completed until December of 2018.
In the meantime, some temporary improvements will help with the congestion challenges present in the existing traffic pattern. As of last Friday, February 5, the middle school’s half-circle bus loop accessed from South Manheim has been opened and can be used as an additional student drop-off or pickup area. Vehicles should enter from the south side of the loop, let students out along the existing sidewalk and exit from the north side. Traffic is allowed in a single lane, one-way direction and vehicles can turn either left or right onto South Manheim. This measure is anticipated to help relieve the traffic back-up on Route 32 South. The current entrance and drop-off/pickup area and Main Street exit (right turn only) remain in use.
As for the longterm traffic plan, it’s been designed to increase parking lot efficiency without losing a lot of the existing parking spaces. The current 94 spaces will be whittled down to 91, but the overall plan greatly improves traffic flow in and out of the school and increases the area for student drop-off and pickup.
The longterm plan allows for vehicles to enter the lot from both South Manheim and Main Street. The latter will be reconfigured to allow vehicles to make a right turn into the parking lot and will remain a right-turn-only exit. The access point from South Manheim will allow drivers to make either a left or right turn both entering the lot and exiting.
The current entrance from South Manheim will be closed and turned into an emergency access route with a key-access gate. The half-circle driveway located south of the current entrance will be reconfigured to merge into the existing drop-off/pickup line. The driveway will be widened to allow for two-way traffic, which will more than double available space for vehicles dropping off and picking up students. In addition, two more drop-off/pickup areas will be added for vehicles coming from Main Street. In total, three separate zones for dropping off or picking up students will be created, greatly increasing the efficiency of the process.
The plan also improves handicapped parking and building access. Sidewalks and parking lot striping directing pedestrians to crosswalks will speed up the process of moving students on and off campus. By adding sidewalks along the parking lot and closing the existing South Manheim access point, pedestrian traffic patterns will change, eliminating the mid-block crossing location.
The design plan reflects input from a wide range of sources, including the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), New Paltz Police Chief Joseph Snyder, school administration, traffic engineers from GTS Consulting, the district’s Facilities Committee and construction professionals from The Palumbo Group and Tetra Tech. The community group Safe Routes to School was consulted and the findings from a professional traffic study conducted in October utilized.