South Washington County Schools

Development Type:       None

Services Provided:        Circulation Evaluation

Client:                              South Washington County Schools

At first glance, the Woodbury High School in Woodbury, Minnesota would appear to have good traffic operations. There’s a separate lot for buses and a separate lot for student parking. Trails are provided around the campus with clearly marked crossings. And a traffic signal provides for controlled entries and exits. Despite these advantages, operational problems persisted.

In cooperation with the City of Woodbury, the South Washington County Schools contracted with us to evaluate their traffic operations and circulation. That’s when we got to examine conditions and look behind the curtain.

After spending time observing traffic and having discussions with school officials, we first determined the school operations did not have any catastrophic issues. But, there were areas of congestion that could be improved. In particular, we found three areas of concern:

+ Long delays and queues at the primary internal intersection

+ Inefficient drop-offs/pick-ups

+ Insufficient signal timing to handle the peak school exit time in the afternoon

Another interesting aspect of our initial examination is that counts revealed a greater parking supply than demand. This suggests the school would have the opportunity to shift where certain groups are parking and/or eliminate some parking in favor of ways to improve overall circulation.

After our internal brainstorming to develop potential alternatives, we again sat down with school officials to discuss the feasibility of potential options. Through this process, some options were eliminated due to various constraints or the magnitude of impacts. For instance, shifting the bus parking lot and allowing greater use of the local street connecting to that lot would increase traffic volumes through that neighborhood. In addition to the impact on those residents living in that area, certain restrictions on the general use of that access were put in place by the City to prevent such a change. Not wanting to fight the City or the neighbors on such an issue quickly removed the option from consideration.

We then developed the remaining options and ideas into a series of short- and long-term recommendations. The short-term recommendations were intended for implementation in the 2015-2016 school year and included:

+ Providing more physical direction of vehicle travel within the campus to eliminate queue jumping or drop-offs/pick-ups that occur in non-designated areas of the campus

+ Using staff or volunteers to help guide drivers around the campus and help with drop-offs/pick-ups with the goal to improve the efficiency of students moving between cars and the building

+ Restricting student drivers to the parking lot northwest of the school building where two access points to the public road are available and which would also reduce volume through the primary internal intersection

+ Providing printed and on-line guidance regarding traffic operations (especially drop-off/pick-up routines) and parking information (designated areas for students, staff, visitors, etc.) to set expectations and provide the ground rules for all drivers

Recommendations that would require long-term planning and budgeting beyond that initial year included:

+ Working with the City on a more appropriate school-time based signal timing

+ Providing raised crosswalks and appropriate crossing signs to slow vehicle speeds and improve student crossing visibility

+ Revising the drop-off/pick-up area to eliminate queue jumping and provide for a more orderly circulation

+ Provide a right turn at the primary internal intersection with a splitter island to improve capacity and be better able to direct drivers to the south parking lot (and the drop-off/pick-up area) in the peak periods.

The graphic shows these recommendations for the campus. In addition, we recently helped the City revised the signal timing before the start of the 2016-2017 school year. While the intense peak traffic that a school typically sees during the morning and afternoon peak periods will not be delay-free, we do expect a noticeable improvement in safety and operations as the School and the District continue to implement these recommendations.