A plan that would have seen three gates installed on Maple Avenue has been scrapped out of concern that careless motorists would periodically transform the gates into scrap.

A plan that would have seen three gates installed on Maple Avenue has been scrapped out of concern that careless motorists would periodically transform the gates into scrap.

The gate plan was part of an effort to provide a greater level of protection for Holy Family School students and staff when they cross that street. That has been an ongoing concern of Sister Betty Uchytil, school principal, and Father Mike Quinn, who met Thursday afternoon at city hall with members of the city’s traffic committee.

“It’s about the safety of the kids,” Quinn said.

While City Manager Jeff LaGarce agreed that there is a safety issue to consider, he questioned whether the installation of crossing gates, which had been approved by the traffic committee in late 2017, is the best option.

“They (gates) would have created a lot of ‘moving parts’ and may not have passed the test of time,” he said.

Although concern over the responsibility of opening and closing of the gates was cited, LaGarce’s main objection to the installation of gates was how long it would take before they were damaged by a motorist.

“People hit all sorts of things (with vehicles),” he said. “I’m afraid the gates would be busted by June, and then what would we do?”

An assortment of proposals were discussed during the course of Thursday’s meeting, including completely closing Maple Avenue by the school and making it into a garden area, installing multiple speed tables on Maple Avenue, creating a four-way stop at the intersection of Church Street and Maple Avenue, and turning Maple Avenue into a one-way street going south from Broadway to Church Street. The idea that gained traction among committee members and school representatives was the installation of crossing lights at the crosswalk on Maple Avenue.

Rather than purchase new signal lights, Rich Dauma, a representative of the street department and member of the traffic committee, proposed removing the crossing lights which currently are in place on St. Mary’s Avenue.

“I do not think they are used (by students) at all,” said Dauma.

Before any action is taken, the Hannibal public school district will be contacted by the city in an effort to determine how many students are walking to Mark Twain Elementary School from the neighborhood south of St. Mary’s Avenue and might actually be utilizing the crossing lights on the busy street on their way to or from school.

Even if it is decided that the lights should not be relocated from St. Mary’s Avenue to Maple Avenue, LaGarce believes the installation of crossing lights on Maple Avenue makes fiscal sense.

“I would rather spend $30,000 on lights than $8,000 (periodically) on gates,” he said.

The city’s safety efforts will not stop with the installation of crossing lights, which will

look like regular traffic signals but can be activated to go red at the push of a button. Signage will be installed on Church Street, a westbound one-way thoroughfare, in an effort to inform motorists that they are entering a school zone, particularly those intending to turn onto Maple Avenue.

Asked about the possibility of installing a school zone sign with a flashing light, Dauma said such signs cost around $1,600 apiece.

Slowing down traffic turning from Church Street onto Maple Avenue has been a top priority of Uchytil’s since she became principal at the school.

“It’s really a concern two to three times a day. It can get crazy there,” she said, citing the times of greatest concern are when students are going to recess at the playground located on the west side of Maple Avenue and after school is dismissed and children are being picked up by parents. “It’s a little less crazy at recess.”

Currently the school relies on teacher crossing guards, holding stop signs, to halt motorists on Maple Avenue when students are crossing the street.

A raised crosswalk was installed on Maple Avenue in mid-September 2012 which was intended to act as both a speed table and to make pedestrians more visible to motorists. However, the elevated crosswalk, which never had the desired effect according to school officials, was removed last fall when Maple Avenue was milled and given a new coat of asphalt.

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