MOUNDRIDGE — Students, parents, teachers and staff are adjusting to the new design of the parking lot in front of Moundridge High School and Moundridge Middle School — and more changes are in store for the road leading there.
The parking lot used to have three access points. The west opening was designated for entrances only, with the opening just east of it used exclusively for exiting traffic.
Over the summer, that was changed and the access points on the west and east ends of the lot were blocked off and the middle point was widened to allow one lane of entering traffic and two lanes of exiting traffic, which must turn either right or left.
Moundridge also recently added a crosswalk near the east end of the schools' parking lot, crossing over Cole Street. The installation of the crosswalk was intended to allow pedestrians to cross over to the street and walk to the ball diamonds or Casey's General Store.
"This all started back when Casey's was being built," said Moundridge City Administrator Randy Frazer. "Safety was a theme that came up quite a bit."
The number of pedestrians and drivers traveling in the area — whether for school, shopping, work or otherwise — prompted the Kansas Department of Transportation to perform crosswalk and traffic studies.
"We're trying to make a safer corridor for the traffic and pedestrians as well," Frazer said.
KDOT's studies looked at the current and future traffic and safety issues to see if the roads had the safest configuration and it was determined that the road should be changed from four lanes of traffic to two lanes with a center turn lane.
Moundridge received a geometric improvement grant from KDOT, which will be used to reconfigure Cole Street, which is also Highway 260, from Wedel Street to Avenue C.
"To do that, KDOT requested the east drive out of the school be closed," Frazer said.
Reconfiguring the lanes will allow for future growth in traffic flow in the area, but concerns have been voiced on Facebook by Moundridge residents that the changes will actually hinder traffic since there will no longer be a passing lane for drivers to use to get around slower vehicles.
"I don't think we have slow-moving farm trucks there all day long," Frazer said.
The possibility of the single entrance to the schools being blocked so that emergency vehicles could not drive in was also a point of contention.
"My concern with that whole thing was that if they close it off and only have the one entrance...if it's all jammed up there and has too much traffic, it could make it hard for emergency vehicles to enter," said Clayton Hodson.
There is a parking lot on the south side of the school that is accessible via Washington Avenue.
"From the studies we saw, it's not going to be a big problem," Frazer said.
Rather than taking out driving lanes and adding a turn lane, Hodson said he would rather have a crosswalk with a stoplight activated by pedestrians.
"I don't really think that closing off two lanes of traffic and turning those into a turn lane is going to be safer for the kids," Hodson said. "I think the city's trying to take the cheap way out by repainting the road and calling it good."
Construction on Cole Street starts Sept. 28. The project is scheduled to be completed in 30 working days.
"When there's change and you're used to a certain way, it takes a little time to adapt and get used to it," Frazer said.