The City Staff and Planning Commission recommend approving the Potomac Crescent Waldorf School’s plan to have its 155 K-5th students and daycare attendees dropped off and picked up in the southbound lane of the GW Parkway just yards from the Oronoco intersection. This specific portion of the undivided 6-lane road is identified as a High Crash Network location throughout the City’s Vision Zero materials.
The Vision Zero Action policies are to reduce KSIs (Killed or Seriously Injured)—specifically, 3B.4, involves Vision Zero policies for new school facilities. Did the City apply these policies for this school’s application?
This applicant’s plan requires parents to pull over and drop off their child in the right lane (HOV / Bus Lane) of the GW Parkway in a newly created “loading zone” during one of the school’s designated 10-minute slots between 7:30-8:30 AM. The school estimates 106 cars will participate during this 1-hour period. Pick-up will occur in the exact spot and manner (10-min. slots), but in two stages: 12:00-12:30 and
2:15-3:15. If a parent misses their “slot” they’re supposed to park in three reserve spaces, 2 ½ blocks away, in a parking garage (Trader Joe’s building) and walk their child to or from school.
Alarmingly, the “Vision Zero Viewer” on the City’s website shows since Nov. 2017 there have been 18 accidents at the GW Parkway/Oronoco intersection with one KSI. This is a significant number and likely low due to COVID. The City Staff and Planning Commissioners either (1) knew of the data and ignored it, (2) knew of the data and factored it into their recommendation to approve this new “unloading and loading zone” for kids, or (3) did not see the data or know about it. All three of these scenarios are concerning on various levels.
A professional delivery person (UPS or FedEx) using a “loading zone” on a 6-lane road to deliver boxes during the peak time for accidents is one thing; having parents and other drivers (grandparents, nannies, etc. unfamiliar with the school’s protocols) unload and load their young cooperating children in/out of car seats during the specific 10-min.
slot is different.
Hopefully, Councilmembers can see the flaws with this applicant’s plan for “unloading and loading” 155 kids within a High Crash Network location next to a documented dangerous intersection during peak times for accidents. At a minimum, City Council should follow its predecessors in approving a school use on the GW Parkway and require drop-off and pick-up in parking lots, private alleys, or side streets consisting of only 2-lanes of traffic.