By JOHN T. WARD
Drivers who ignore a widely flouted construction detour may be in for trouble starting Thursday morning, when Little Silver police plan to impose a second set of part-time detours in conjunction with the reopening of the borough’s two schools, authorities said.
The two-month-old shutdown of Seven Bridges Road, though frequently ignored by motorists, has already exacerbated traffic woes at key bottlenecks around town, as well as in the central business district, police Chief Dan Shaffery tells redbankgreen.
Now, in an effort to ensure the safety of children entering and leaving the Little Silver Point Road School, officials plan to implement an additional set of detours in the morning and afternoon and those changes are apt to cause frustration among parents over the first few days of the school year, Shaffery acknowledges.
“The hardest part will be relying on people to follow the detour route, especially on Seven Bridges,” Shaffery said. “It should have been followed from the beginning, but it wasn’t.”
The central element of the plan is enforcement of the no-through-traffic message at a barricade across Seven Bridges Road at the intersection with Silverside Avenue, near the foot of the Gooseneck Bridge from Oceanport, Shaffery said. Though meant to allow only local residents and their visitors access to northbound Seven Bridges Road, the barrier is frequently ignored, and the police have not had the resources for adequate enforcement, he said.
Now, however, the reopening of school has heightened the need to limit the number of vehicles heading north on Seven Bridges, as all that traffic would otherwise have to be funneled west onto Point Road. That’s because there’s an impassable barrier at that location, north of which Monmouth County is involved in a bridge rebuilding project expected to last several more months.
While parents who drive their children to the school will still have access to a student drop-off and pickup lot on the school’s eastern end, abutting Seven Bridges Road, most are expected to drop them off along Lippincott Road, creating a situation in which hundreds of children may need to be guided across Point Road in a short period of time, Shaffery said.
“You know how it is if the school bell is at 8 a.m., everybody waits until 7:59 to get there,” he said.
The barricade at the south end of Seven Bridges will be enforced, with motorists subject to possible stops by police to explain where they’re going, Shaffery said. Those who don’t belong there will be told to head west on Silverside, and those who delay traffic or ignore directives will be given summonses, he said.
“I just hope that motorists go with the flow and don’t give officers a hard time or just drive past the barricades, as they do now,” Schaffery said. “The last thing we want to be doing is giving out tickets with everything else going on.”
The plan also calls for the closure of southbound Prospect Avenue between Willow Drive and Point Road during drop-off and pick-up periods. Thus, parents heading to the school from the north and western portions of town will have to make their way to the western end of Point Road, at Willow Drive, adding miles of travel for some.
Further complicating back-to-school challenges, particularly for parents with kids in both schools, are new hours for the schools. The day at Point Road will now begin at 8:05 a.m, ten minutes earlier than in the past, and end at 2:45 p.m, ten minutes later than previously. At Markham Place, the day will now begin at 8:10, five minutes earlier than before, and end at 3 p.m., as in the past.
The changes were implemented as part of an effort to boost student performance, Superintendent Carolyn Kossack wrote in a letter to parents in July (scroll down for link).
Here’s the full text of an announcement distributed by police Wednesday afternoon:
Due to the county bridge project/detour at Seven Bridges Road and the increased traffic on Little Silver Point Road, beginning on Thursday, September 6, 2012, the following roads will be closed during drop-off and dismissal times at the Point Road and Markham Place Schools. The closures will significantly cut down on the volume of traffic we are currently experiencing on Little Silver Point Road during these times resulting from motorist going around the barricade and ignoring the detour.
Seven Bridges Road between Silverside Avenue and Little Silver Point Road is closed due to the bridge project and the closure will be strictly enforced between the hours of 7:40 a.m. 8:15 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. 3:30 p.m. on school days, we will only allow school traffic, residents, workers and visitors that are going to the Point Road School or the residences only accessible from the detoured area. All other traffic must follow the detour as they are not local traffic. When dropping off students at Point Road School, park on Lippincott Road or for the students that can get out of the car on their own and walk into the school, the side parking lot will be accessible from the driveway off of Seven Bridges Road as in previous years.
The south bound lane on Prospect Avenue (south end) between Willow Drive and Little Silver Point Road will be closed to all traffic during drop-off and pick up times (7:45 a.m. 8:15 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. 3:00 p.m.). This will allow parents to drop off their students at Point Road School and continue onto Markham Place School from Prospect Avenue towards Markham Place as the north bound lane on Prospect Avenue will remain open. Parents going to the Point Road School from the north end of town can take Willow Drive to Little Silver Point Road.
Parents may also drop-off on Holly Drive and students can walk across the bridge under construction in a lane designated for pedestrians while the temporary pedestrian bridge is being installed. The temporary pedestrian bridge will be installed on or before the end of September and pedestrian traffic will be shifted from temporarily coned off areas of the bridge to the newly installed pedestrian bridge.
The Little Silver Police Department has been working diligently with Dr. Kossack (Superintendent of the Little Schools) and Dr. Albert (Principal of Point Road School) to make drop-off and pick-up as safe as possible for the students and we will continue to monitor the traffic and make adjustments to the above as needed. We would like to thank everyone for their anticipated cooperation and welcome the students to the new school year.
For those last-minute parents who haven’t boned up on the new hours and traffic rules, here’s more from Superintendent Kossack: Superintendent’s Letter to Parents July 2012 Regarding Time Changes and Superintendent’s Letter to Parents August 2012