The Utah Transportation Commission has given cities and towns until July 1992 to comply with state school crossing regulations - buying time for the state and local governments to decide what those regulations will be.
The one-year delay comes in the midst of local government, parents and school boards arguing over what UDOT should enforce and who should pay for it.Commissioners adopted the rules last year, following a public comment period that produced feedback from just 11 communities statewide. But it wasn't until the rule was adopted that Utah cities and towns took notice. Officials have been debating the issue every since.
Adding fuel to the long-standing debate is the fact that two children were killed last year by automobiles near schools in Sandy. That was followed by lawmakers shooting down a bill that mandated stricter guidelines than UDOT's and stiff penalties for violators.
Local government opposed the bill because it didn't address who would pay for it. "It's a good cause, but implementation needs broader input," said Ken Bullock, executive director of the Utah League of Cities and Towns.
Now, with UDOT's mandate delayed a year, state and local government officials say they have the time to come up with regulations that could be approved by the Legislature and implemented by July 1992.
UDOT safety engineer Dave Miles said the biggest challenge he faces now is getting all the responsible parties together to reach a consensus.
Most communities have no problems with the state's regulations on signs, which require a minimum of eight signs for each school crosswalk, plus specific pavement marking standards.
The average cost of bringing a school zone into compliance ranges from $1,500 to $2,000. UDOT said many cities already meet these standards.
What prompted the commission last Friday to put enforcement off another year is the issue of crossing guards - when are they necessary, how many are needed, and who pays the bill.
The proposed law shot down during the last legislative session would have mandated a guard and a flashing light at every crossing. UDOT rules require a guard only at crossings using a flashing light, which is optional and determined by local safety officials.
Miles said his department isn't against requiring guards at every school crossing. But, he noted that UDOT only has authority to mandate using "traffic signal devices," which don't include crossing guards.
Some rural communities rely on volunteer help at crosswalks, while larger cities pay crossing guards. West Valley City said it would cost $46,000 a year to have a guard at every school crossing.
Many, including some transportation commissioners, believe schools - rather than struggling local governments - should pay for crossing guards.
No matter who ends up paying the bill, Miles said UDOT and local government agencies will look at increasing fines to violators to offset the cost.
He said that by the end of this year, UDOT hopes to resolve differences and come up with a set of revised regulations for lawmakers to consider.