HOUSTON—More than a year before its grand opening last week, parents near Fort Settlement Middle School were complaining about the newest stretch of University Boulevard and the city’s decision not to declare it a school zone.
Now five days after the 1.8 mile stretch opened, parents, who have been pleading with city officials by email and various public meetings, have decided to take their concerns public.
“The biggest concern that has been all along, our biggest concern that has been simply the safety of our children,” said Sardar Imam whose daughter walks to and from Fort Settlement Middle School.
“Very, very frustrated,” said parent Mrdula Gutta whose son is in the sixth grade. “And we have been complaining about this problem more than a year.
The new section of University Boulevard, beginning at the intersection of Commonwealth Boulevard, is a four-lane divided highway that runs past the south side of the middle school at the intersection of Elkins. Elkins and other neighborhood streets around the school are equipped with school zone warning signs and flashing lights that operate during school arrivals and departures and alert drivers to a reduced speed limit of 20 mph. But University Boulevard, even though it is adjacent to the school, was not designed to include the same warning signs.
“The study shows that a school zone is not warranted along University Boulevard,” said City of Sugar Land spokesman Doug Adolph, referring to the traffic studies done before the roadway was built. “Signalized intersections are far safer than school zones because traffic has to come to a complete halt,” he said in reference to the traffic lights and crosswalks installed at the intersection of University and Elkins.
Adolph said city planners also agreed to reduce the University Blvd. speed limit from 45 to 40.
Adolph said city planners followed state guidelines that stipulated since the new road runs along the side, not the front, of the middle school, and does not have any designated drop off zones for students, that it does not quality for school zone warning signs.
But parents also complain that the intersection is equipped with crosswalks and crosswalk warning signs at just three of the four sides of the intersection. And they question if the crosswalk signals, as programmed, provide enough time for children to cross.
City officials said they have agreed to conduct an additional traffic study, perhaps 6 months from now, when new traffic patterns are firmly established.
“(We want to) to determine whether or not the situation has changed along that roadway, and whether or not it’s warranted at that time to install a school zone,” said Adolph.
“We just need to get those done as soon as possible and not wait for a six-month study,” said Imam.