HARLINGEN — More patrols, extended school zones and new traffic lights could be added to an area surrounding Wilson Road.
Cameron County Commissioner Gus Ruiz, of Precinct 4, held a meeting at his offices Wednesday to discuss ideas to better handle traffic when the new IDEA school opens this year at 24240 Chester Park Road.
TxDOT specialists, Texas state troopers, Harlingen police, IDEA and HCISD representatives and Assistant City Manager Carlos Sanchez were present to give their opinion on the best options for school traffic safety.
Ruiz asked whether it would be best to expand school zone areas to get cars to slow down.
Having IDEA and Gutierrez Middle School so close to each other could mean more traffic. Essentially, Ruiz said they want children to arrive to school on time as well as safe.
“It is not only about preventing accidents but getting the kids where they need to be on time,” Ruiz said.
“If we were to petition whoever it is to install a traffic light, where would it be? On Chester?’” Ruiz asked.
According to Danny Castillo, Director of Emergency Management and School Safety for HCISD, during the drop-off and pick-up times congestion rises.
“From a school district standpoint the one feedback I got from the principal at Gutierrez is the concern is always the vehicles trying to get across into the parking lots at school. That is going to affect IDEA as well as us,” Castillo said.
“That is one of the aggravators school administrators see every day. That is where some level of traffic control would be able to mitigate that to some degree,” he said.
Before arriving to Gutierrez there are flashing signs advising drivers to lower their speed. But officials said they do not consider it to be a sufficient way to handle school traffic.
An option is to move the school zone to Ramsey Road, but that is still under consideration.
Peak times according to Castillo are 7:20 to 7:55 in the morning and 3:30 to 3:45 in the afternoon.
In order to expand the school zone, funding must be requested for the development to take the next step in the process.
Ruiz asked TxDOT engineers for suggestions and ideas to follow up on what to do to lower traffic.
“Ideally it is getting the school district an extension and getting the speed reduced within that parameter,” Ruiz said.
The meeting ended with a tentative date for a future meeting in two months and for possible county entities that could support the projects talked about.
A traffic light could or could not be a good idea, according to the entities present, though research will be done to see what would be the best solution to the traffic problem.
“This is why we are having this conversation this afternoon, to cover all the issues,” Ruiz said.