On weekday mornings and afternoons, a line of cars forms on a busy Center Grove area road with parents picking up or dropping off their children at school, while other drivers go off the road and into the decorative median to avoid the back-up.
The issue is one both Center Grove school and Bargersville town officials are aware of, and the two groups met just this month to discuss what could be done about the traffic conundrum before and after school at Maple Grove Elementary School. They also know the concerns there could be repeated elsewhere, especially with a new elementary school set to open in 2019 off South Morgantown Road.
The line of cars from Maple Grove Elementary School onto Whiteland Road has long been an issue but was exacerbated in 2012 when the county redesigned the road, installing a grass median where drivers had previously crossed over to the other side of the road to bypass cars in line to turn into the school. Now, drivers will instead drive into the grass median to get around the backed-up traffic, which has raised concerns from town officials, residents and school officials.
That was one reason why the Bargersville town council met with Center Grove school officials to begin talks about what improvements could be made around both Maple Grove Elementary and the proposed Walnut Grove Elementary set to open on Morgantown Road, south of County Road 144 in 2019, in order to best handle the traffic from hundreds of families everyday.
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Center Grove doesn’t have a count of how many parents pick up or drop off their children each day, but with more than 800 students enrolled at Maple Grove Elementary, that number is often substantial, superintendent Richard Arkanoff said.
“The concern we have is the safety of the kids and cars,” Bargersville town council member Kenneth Zumstein said. “You never know when someone might come through and not notice a car was stopped.”
School and county officials have looked into possible solutions in the past. In 2014, a second entrance into the school was opened to allow parents to be able to more quickly drop off their children at school. Now, they are trying again to find any potential solutions.
What that solution might look like hasn’t been determined.
Bargersville could extend the right turn lane from Whiteland Road into the school or paving part of the median to allow drivers to pass backed-up vehicles. Center Grove could re-examine its drop-off and pick-up procedures to see if anything can be done to keep vehicles from backing up onto Whiteland Road, Arkanoff said.
“Our goal is to try and get traffic off the road as quickly as possible,” he said.
Any changes are not likely to include roads on the school property, such as lengthening or widening them to fit more vehicles, due to the cost of that work, Arkanoff said.
When a new elementary school on Morgantown Road, south of County Road 144 was designed, Center Grove took steps to ensure similar backups wouldn’t happen. A lengthy driveway inside the school will make room for parents dropping off or picking up their children, but improvements to a nearby intersection also are being considered. The 850-student school can also be accessed from County Road 450W, but the main entrance for parents when they drop off or pick up their children will be on South Morgantown Road, Arkanoff said.
The intersection of Morgantown Road and County Road 144 is currently a four-way stop-sign, which is unlikely to be able to handle the large increase of traffic coming to Walnut Grove Elementary School when it opens in 2019, Zumstein said.
A traffic study, which will be complete in the next couple of weeks, will give school, town and county officials the information they need to determine what road improvements are necessary, Zumstein said.
Potential improvements to the intersection include either a traffic light or roundabout, he said. A roundabout would require the town to purchase more land for the project, he said.