By Rick Palsgrove
The morning and afternoon traffic jams on State Route 317 at Groveport Madison High School caused by the elimination of school busing are a strain on drivers, pedestrians and police officers.
“We issued nine jaywalking citations in two days to students who were illegally crossing State Route 317 on foot away from the traffic light,” said Groveport Police Chief Ralph Portier at Groveport City Council’s Sept. 9 meeting. “Also, parents are rampantly dropping off students along State Route 317 instead of the school parking lot. Jaywalking and dropping off kids in this manner is very dangerous on State Route 317.”
As part of $4.6 million in cuts made by the Groveport Madison Board of Education in response to last May’s levy failure, Groveport Madison Schools eliminated high school busing for grades 9-12 and limited busing for grades K-8. Cutting busing saves the district $702,000 annually.
According to Portier, Groveport police and other local police departments, along with school staffs, are doing their best to control the traffic jam situations at the schools. Portier said the majority of the traffic at the high school is coming from the northern part of the school district.
Portier said the 5 to 7 police officers on duty during rush hours near the high school are writing more traffic citations to help control the “landslide of vehicles” funneling through State Route 317 to the schools and area businesses. He said drivers are illegally parking in, and blocking, nearby business parking lots in order to drop off students. He said additional problems are drivers double parking, blocking emergency vehicle access, making U-turns on State Route 317 and speeding on nearby side roads.
“We ticketed one driver for going 43 mph in a 25 mph zone on Director’s Boulevard,” said Portier. “It’s dangerous to drive that fast with so many students walking in the area.”
Portier said not only State Route 317 is clogged with traffic.
“The traffic backup is filtering out further into the community to Venture Place and Williams Road,” said Portier.
Groveport City Councilman Shawn Cleary added, “Bixby Road is also backing up with cars from Hamilton Road.”
In spite of the high number of vehicles, Portier said traffic on State Route 317 is not gridlocked.
“Traffic is moving, it’s just moving slowly,” said Portier. “From 7:10 to 7:30 a.m. is the worst congestion. After that it empties out and clears.”
According to Portier, the extra police officers on traffic duty are costing the city of Groveport more money in overtime pay.
Portier said he feels bad that his officers are being made “scapegoats” by some drivers because the officers have to issue tickets to maintain safety.
“We (the police and city of Groveport) had no control in the decision to cut busing. People are mad at the officers for issuing tickets, but the officers have no choice because our first priority is keeping the students safe,” said Portier. “We’re doing the best we can. In addition to this traffic control, the officers still have to patrol the city’s streets, but we can’t be everywhere at the same time.”