DRIVERS MUST SHOW CAUTION NEAR WILLOW

January 25, 2002 12:00 am

The increased traffic near Willow Elementary School should come as no surprise. The Dec. 5 opening of the new Safeway store at Willow Street and Adams Avenue has prompted hundreds of people to shift their driving habits every day.

The heavier traffic, including some drivers who have been speeding along Willow Street, has prompted Charlotte McLaughlin, the schools principal, to ask motorists to slow down or find some alternative route.

The danger, she says, is that some Willow student might step out into the traffic and be hit. The Oregon Department of Transportation began addressing the Willow School traffic issues this fall by changing the color of speed limit and warning signs from yellow to a more eye-catching fluorescent green.

The City of La Grande is considering installing a speed bump on Willow as a way to slow motorists. And adult volunteers are being asked to assist with Willows crossing guard program.

The coming of Safeway and other factors including a change in driving patterns prompted by last summer and falls closure of Cove Avenue have made Willow Street busier than it has been in the past. Willow Elementary School has entered the real world of traffic conditions, not unlike those experienced by other La Grande grade schools. Central Elementary has had to deal with heavy traffic at times along Sunset Drive and K Avenue. Greenwood School has the busy Spruce Street passing in front of it. And Riveria School has had to deal with Second Street, another well-traveled street.

The way to deal with traffic problems is to publicize them, as Principal McLaughlin is doing. The second approach is stepped-up enforcement. If people are regularly speeding on streets near schools, police need to be present in their patrol cars to help calm their heels. Speed bumps should be installed only as a last resort.

McLaughlin should compare notes with the other school principals on what works best in dealing with busy streets. Beyond that, motorists should be reminded that the speed in front of Willow is 25 mph, except when children are present and the maximum drops to 20 mph. Every licensed driver should be aware of the speed limits around schools, and be committed to abide by them.

PLANNING PAYS OFF

Its been good to see the La Grande School District being prudent in light of the $400,000 or more in funding cuts it could face in 2002-03 as the Oregon Legislature deals with the states revenue shortfall.

The district has held back $316,000 from the state school improvement funds it received last summer. Superintendent Dan Arriola is recommending that the district freeze this years expenditures on supplies, equipment and contracted services by as much as 6 percent, saving the district $210,442.

Wise planning will help the district weather any funding cuts the state throws its way.