Children’s Center request tabled

Published 8:35 pm Saturday, November 20, 2010

Children’s Center: City traffic engineers fear that extra programming at the Children’s Center could result in more traffic on Wilroy Road.

The Children’s Center received a 30-day reprieve on its search for a conditional use permit for its Wilroy Road facility.

The childcare facility received more than a million dollars in federal stimulus money to expand the Early Head Start program. However, city staff is recommending the center be required to pay for turn lane improvements on Wilroy Road, something that Children’s Center administrators say would cost so much it would kill the project.

“Our budget simply cannot bear this expense,” said Tamie Rittenhouse, Early Head Start director at the center. “I would not stand before you and make a request that compromises the safety of children.”

Email newsletter signup

The 3,000-square-foot building addition and associated expansion of the parking lot would allow for expanded services to a maximum of 95 children with 32 staff members. The city traffic engineer is concerned the program will add traffic to an already-busy roadway.

According to a city staff report at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, three accidents have occurred at the Executive Court intersection since 2002 that can be attributed to vehicles turning left to go to the Children’s Center.

“A left turn lane may have prevented these accidents from occurring,” the staff report says.

The speed limit on that stretch of the road is 45 miles per hour. At least two of the accidents were caused by driver inattention.

“Occasional driver negligence cannot necessarily be overcome with additional pavement,” said Jim Bradford, the Children’s Center attorney.

Furthermore, the center contends the program would actually result in less traffic on Wilroy Road because more children would be arriving by bus.

City Council members, however, were reluctant to grant the request without the turn lane requirement.

“I’m caught in the middle,” Councilman Leroy Bennett said. He said he recognizes the benefits of early education but does not want to forgo safety.

“I do not think that we ought to compromise in any way the safety of the children getting there,” Councilman Joe Barlow said.

Councilman Charles Parr requested that traffic engineers study whether turn lanes would still be needed if the speed limit on the road were reduced.

Bennett agreed.

“I would like to see all options taken a look at,” Bennett said.

Council members tabled the conditional use permit request for a month so that the study can take place.