Change being made to provide more protection to Holy Family pedestrians

A major traffic flow revision is in the works on Maple Avenue, between Church Street and Broadway, in Hannibal. The purpose of the change is to provide a greater level of protection to Holy Family School students and staff crossing that street than had been provided by an elevated crosswalk.

According to Sister Betty Uchytil, school principal, students cross Maple Avenue to reach a playground twice during the day for recess. The street must be crossed again later when parents pick up students in the west parking lot after dismissal of school.

“We have teacher crossing guards who help in the process of crossing the street. The speed table does not affect what we do during these times. Cars have to stop while the adults cross the students to the playground,” said Uchytil. “Another measure seemed to need investigation of how else we could have safe travel to the playground and parking lot.”

That “measure” came out of a recent meeting that brought together representatives of the city, Holy Family School and Abel’s Quik Shop.

“We met with them and came up with the idea of a temporary road closure gating system,” said Brian Chaplin, superintendent of the Public Works Department, during a meeting of the city’s Traffic Committee on Nov. 21.

The gates would be closed from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. only on days when school is in session.

“Then the gates will be back open,” added Chaplin.

A series of three gates would be installed. One will extend parallel to the playground fence located on the west side of Maple Avenue. A middle gate will be installed at the parking lot exit from Holy Family. The third gate will be placed at Maple Avenue and Church Street.

“They (motorists) will not be able to turn onto Maple from Church during those (school) hours,” said Chaplin.

“The closed street during school hours will give greater protection to our student body because no cars will be able to drive along Maple from Broadway to Church Street. When the children cross the street to the playground the gates will be closed,” said Uchytil.

Rich Dauma of the Street Department said signs will be installed on Church, a westbound one-way thoroughfare, to advise drivers that no right turn onto Maple will be possible during school hours.

Mike McHargue of the Street Department noted that between the northern most gate at the playground and Broadway, parking will be normal.

McHargue noted that Holy Family personnel will be responsible for operating the gates.

The project’s costs will be shared. The city will pay for the new signage and overlay of Maple Avenue. According to Chaplin, the expense of the gates will be covered by Mark Able.

“We’ve got a happy medium,” said Dauma. “Mr. Able and everybody is happy and we’ve been proactive.”

“I am grateful for whatever improvements that can be made to keep our students and families safe during the school day,” said Uchytil.

The proposal must be approved by the city council before it can be implemented. City Manager Jeff LaGrace anticipates it will appear on the Tuesday, Dec. 19, council agenda.

Other considerations

The Maple Avenue situation was also a topic of discussion during an October meeting of the Traffic Committee.

Among the options proposed was making Maple Avenue one way to cut down on half of the traffic and making the street from Broadway to Church Street no parking. Also proposed was placing stop signs on both sides of the crosswalk and putting in a normal crosswalk and having an elevated speed table on both sides of it so that people must slow down before they get to the crosswalk area.

The matter ultimately was tabled in October so that McHargue could check to see how much room on Maple Avenue fuel trucks need when making deliveries to Abel’s. At the November Traffic Committee meeting McHargue reported that all fuel deliveries to the convenience store would be scheduled before 7 a.m.

In response to Maple Avenue safety concerns raised by Joy Hayward, then-Holy Family School principal, the Traffic Committee in 2012 approved the installation of stop signs on Church Street. However, the council never took action on the recommendation and the signs were not set.

Also proposed was the creation of a raised crosswalk. The new crosswalk, which was installed in mid-September of 2012, acted as a speed table and made pedestrians even more visible to motorists.

That elevated crosswalk was removed last week when Maple Avenue was milled and given a new coat of asphalt.

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com