Disagreeing with 350 neighbors, one Centerville resident thinks completion of Fourth West would worsen, not improve, traffic and pedestrian problems at Reading Elementary School.
J.R. Hunt lives at 357 W. 2025 North, across the street from the school and near where 2025 North ends at a field. Other nearby residents and parents of the children who attend the school want Fourth West extended from 1950 North to 2025 North, saying the dead end creates serious traffic and access problems.But Hunt, a lieutenant and 18-year veteran of the Davis County Sheriff's Department, disagrees that extending Fourth West would help the situation, although acknowledging his stand is not popular.
A petition bearing 350 signatures calling for the city to spend up to $75,000 to acquire right of way and extend the street was submitted at a public hearing March 15 and the council promised an answer by May 17.
By completing the extension and eliminating 2025 North's dead end, Hunt said, the city would increase traffic volume and speed as drivers begin using it as a through street.
"The traffic flow through the area would improve at the expense of safety for the children and residents" if the extension is made, Hunt said.
"The only valid argument I've heard for the street connection is that the improved traffic flow would greatly improve access for emergency vehicles and services. There is no question that the congestion that exists for two 30-minute periods a day would greatly impede quick access for emergency services," he said.
Hunt also agrees with his fellow residents and the council on another position: The school should not have been built on 2025 North and the Davis School District should bear the responsibility for the traffic and access problems created by putting a school on a dead-end street.
But Hunt also said allowing school staff to park in what was designed to be a loading and unloading area contributes to the problem. Parking should not be allowed there, Hunt wrote in a letter given to the City Council Tuesday, also suggesting a second, larger turnaround be built at the north end of the playing field to handle buses and other traffic.
And, Hunt said, the people complaining about the conditions are also at fault, citing instances of parents speeding at 35 to 40 mph to get their kids to school on time and others stopping in the middle of the street, blocking traffic in both directions, to let their children out.
While conceding the Fourth West extension will eventually be built, Hunt said a temporary alternative that has been rejected once should still be considered: construction of a kiddie path for pedestrians along the route.
"The liability and responsibility issues were big reasons that the path was not installed two or three years ago," Hunt said, urging those problems be addressed again as an alternative to paving the street.
And, "At the risk of being tarred and feathered for saying this, kids can walk to and from school and will be healthier for it," Hunt suggested as another alternative to solving the vehicle traffic congestion.
The sheriff's department lieutenant also took exception to claims that hundreds of school children walking along Main Street to school constitute a safety hazard.
There has only been one incident since the school opened, Hunt said, involving a child who suffered minor injuries when he walked into the side of a moving car. The traffic congestion prevented the car from going faster, Hunt said, actually making the incident less serious than it could have been.
"Main Street as it exists, with sidewalks and a crossing guard, is a safe place to walk," said Hunt.
"I'm very aware of the emotion that has come about because of this issue," he said. "My concern is that emotion has clouded the ability to be objective about the needs that exist and the long-term ramifications of whatever decision is made."