Apodaca: Construction snarls drop-off and pick-up

September 17, 2011|By Patrice Apodaca

If our alien overlords ever return to Earth to check on how we lowly humans are faring, I hope they don't decide to show up during school drop-off and pick-up times.

Here's what they'd find: over-caffeinated parents drag racing their SUVs to get their children to school on time; kids running across busy intersections and dodging cars in school parking lots; new teen drivers navigating bumper-to-bumper traffic and hair-raising turns as they compete for prime parking spots; and cranky neighbors who wish it would all go away.

Not exactly a showcase of humanity at its finest.

What's worse, this year, the chaos threatens to reach new levels at two of Newport-Mesa's most populated campuses. Costa Mesa and Corona del Mar high schools have major construction projects underway that have added to their usual assortment of traffic and parking woes.


Both schools have torn down older structures to add theaters and separate middle-school "enclaves" for their seventh- and eighth-grade students. The projects, which are expected to take two to three years, are being paid for with funds from the Measure F bond issue passed by voters in 2005.

Aggravating as they are, it's tough to affix blame for the school-generated traffic problems, as they are largely a byproduct of maturing neighborhoods and aging infrastructure. Most of the schools were built decades ago. Today, the district is faced with replacing old buildings and updating campuses at a time when far more cars are on the road than planners originally envisioned.

At the same time, a host of other factors have contributed to the overall congestion, including reduced student-to-teacher ratios in primary grades, buses for special-needs students and a law restricting new teen drivers from having other teens as passengers.

Even the newest school in the district, Newport Coast Elementary, has been beset by congestion and a dearth of parking for the simple — though somewhat hard to fathom — reason that no one anticipated the growth that the area has experienced since the campus opened about a decade ago.

"In the past, when the schools were built, they didn't think everyone would drive a car," said Jim Lamond, Newport-Mesa's director of facilities and development, planning and design.

I stopped by Lamond's office last week to discuss traffic and parking issues, and the impact of the building projects.

He assured me that traffic flow was an integral part of the planning for the projects from the start.

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