Increased traffic concern for law enforcement
By Jack Kintner
A combination of construction detours and population growth have dramatically increased traffic on H Street, Blaine’s main east-west thoroughfare, according to Blaine police chief Mike Haslip.
Because it’s also one of the main feeder routes to the public school campus, heavier traffic means local drivers need to be reminded and encouraged to do their part to keep the three-block stretch safe.
Haslip said that two students have been struck by cars so far this school year, and while neither resulted in serious injury it underscores the need for caution near the school in the mornings when schools begin at 8:20 a.m. (9:10 a.m. for the primary school) and especially between the 2:50 p.m. general dismissal until about 3:15.
Flashing yellow lights warning drivers to slow down when children are present also indicate that the speed limit has dropped from 25 to 20 mph.
Though the reduced speed adds less than 10 seconds to the time it takes to drive the few blocks inside the school zone on H Street, ignoring the lower limit can be costly as well as dangerous.
Patrol officer Jake Farrer said he’s written as many as four to five tickets a day for speeding in the school zones on H Street and on Boblett, resulting in heavy fines that cannot be reduced in traffic court.
The fines range from $182 for five miles an hour or less over the 20 mph limit to nearly $800.
“The highest speed I’ve seen was 47 mph, which cost that driver over $500,” Farrer said.
“Speeding is a problem,” Haslip said, “but so are those drivers who let their kids out in the middle of the street during peak traffic periods.
“We’d really like to see drivers pull off to the side of the road and let their kids out on the curb side, or better pull completely off the road into one of the parking lots.”
Blaine school superintendent Ron Spanjer said that the mix of pedestrian, bicycle and auto traffic becomes acutely congested because of the numbers.
“Twenty-one hundred students are on campus on any given day, 40 percent of who walk or bicycle to school or arrive by private vehicle,” he explained.
There are 12 crosswalks around the campus. The school district has crossing guards at the corner of Mitchell and H streets and on Mitchell near the elementary school, and recently stationed a third crossing guard on Boblett in front of the primary school.
They have the same authority to stop traffic as a patrol officer, and penalties for not complying with their directions can be severe, according to Haslip.
Spanjer said that inclement winter weather and decreased visibility aggravates the situation.
“Parents can help out in several ways,” he said, “by assuring that students cross H, Mitchell and Boblett streets only at patrolled crosswalks. Or they could drop them off where they don’t have to cross the street to get to campus, and especially in the winter by having students wear light and or reflective clothing.”
Haslip agreed, saying that teaching kids to use the crosswalks makes sense, “because you’re teaching them to take advantage of the protection we’re trying to provide.”
He also said that speeding has been a problem just outside the school zones when people who are late are rushing to school or to drop off students.
“In addition to the hazard, the seconds you may save aren’t worth a $200 speeding ticket,” Haslip said.