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Lathrop working on fixes for traffic by school site

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POSTED November 5, 2011 1:19 a.m.

LATHROP – There might not be an immediate solution to the parking and traffic woes at Lathrop Elementary School in sight.

But a community meeting on Wednesday between civic leaders, school officials, city staffers and residents that outlined concerns and possible solutions represented a step towards resolving something that has angered and frustrated parents and left neighbors wondering what’s going to be done.

The issue has been compounded recently by the Thomsen Road improvements along the northern side of the elementary school that changed where parents waited and parked when picking up their kids from school. Complaints from neighbors along the street prompted the city to look into the possibility of banning parking along that stretch altogether. Now a variety of possibilities are on the table.

Having that sort of open dialogue in a setting where all involved parties are represented, said Councilman Omar Ornelas, is the best way to move towards finding a solution that will appease all involved.

“I think it was a productive meeting and we got a lot of good information out there – it put everybody kind of the same page with where things are,” Ornelas said. “There were some good ideas discussed as solutions, and there are some things that we’re going to have to look at.

“I think that meetings like this are really productive, and we should start looking at having them – not just for this but for other things as well.”

According to Ornelas, ideas that were tossed around included everything from looking into one-way streets to putting medians up on Fifth Street that would prevent cars from making illegal U-turns across the double-yellow lines – just one of the complaints that were brought to a council meeting by a concerned citizen that wanted to see something changed.

While some of the concepts were thrown out because they would adversely impact neighbors even more than the current situation already is, many of them were left on the table for the next group that gathers to discuss further – something that Ornelas hopes can happen after about a month of having city staff look into plausible solutions.

Mayor Joseph “Chaka” Santos said he liked the idea of adding a crosswalk at the location – providing an additional level of safety while at the same time teaching the youth that they need to utilize them rather than just cutting across the street into traffic and trying to outrun vehicles that might be speeding past.

Adding signage is also something that was discussed during Wednesday’s gathering. While price will play somewhat of a role in the decision that the council will have to make, Santos said, you can’t put a price tag on preserving the safety of children.

“When it comes to the safety of kids you need to look at both sides of the issue,” he said. “I think that’s what this group has done and will do again.”

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